Across Cultures: Asian Pacific American Heritage

These books tell the stories of young Asian Pacific Americans who must navigate the complexities, challenges, and opportunities of living between two worlds as they are coming of age.

Whale Talk

Age Level: 12-14

"T. J. Jones, the mixed-race, larger-than-life, heroic, first-person narrator of this novel, lays out the events of his senior year, with many digressions along the way. The central plot involves T. J.'s efforts to put together a swim team of misfits, as he tries to upset the balance of power at his central Washington high school, where jocks and the narrow-minded rule. However, a number of subplots deal with racism, child abuse, and the efforts of the protagonist's adopted father to come to grips with a terrible mistake in his past." — School Library Journal

A Step from Heaven

By: An Na
Age Level: 14-16

Young Yu is only four years old when she takes an airplane from Korea to California, feeling she is only "a step from Heaven." Her narration subtly matures as she grows into a capable young woman, ready to go off to college in this sophisticated, moving first novel. Winner of the "Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature" in 2002.

All the Broken Pieces

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Two years after being airlifted out of war-torn Vietnam, Matt Pin is haunted: by bombs that fell like dead crows, by the family — and the terrible secret — he left behind. Now, inside a caring adoptive home in the United States, a series of profound events force him to choose between silence and candor, blame and forgiveness, fear and freedom. By turns harrowing, dreamlike, sad, and triumphant, this searing debut novel, written in lucid verse, reveals an unforgettable perspective on the lasting impact of war and the healing power of love.

American Born Chinese

Age Level: 9-12

Three storylines — contemporary and mythic — intersect in this tale of a boy who is not comfortable with his culture or himself. This fresh, sometimes surprising, revealing novel is told in image and text. This graphic novel was the first of its format to win the Printz Award for best work of Young Adult Literature.

Ask Me No Questions

Age Level: 12-14
Nadira's family has lived a law-abiding—but illegal—existence since arriving in the U.S. from Bangladesh years ago. During a post-9/11 crackdown, her father is discovered and the possibility of deportation hangs heavy over their lives.

Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Moana Kawelo, PhD, has a promising career as a museum curator in Los Angeles. The untimely death of her father and the gravitational pull of Hawaii when she returns home for his funeral causes Moana to question her motivations and her glamorous life in California. Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me is the story of Moana's struggle to understand her ancestral responsibilities, mend relationships, and find her identity as a Hawaiian in today s world. 2010 American Indian Youth Literature Award Winner.

Bindi Babes

Age Level: 12-14

Three Indian sisters are growing up in London with their widowed father, and now, his sister, their strict Auntie. The story is light, but paints a vivid picture of Indian immigrants and British culture.

Born Confused

Age Level: 14-16

Dimple is an Indian-American girl trying desperately to assimilate in her New Jersey neighborhood, until she meets an attractive Indian guy who shows her the charms of her own heritage.

Breadcrumbs

By: Anne Ursu
Age Level: 9-12

Hazel is having trouble fitting in to her new school, although based on her experience of having been adopted, she is no stranger to feeling like an outsider. The only tolerable thing about school is that her best friend and next-door neighbor, Jack, is there with her each day. Then Jack disappears into an enchanted forest with a winter witch, and Hazel realizes that only she alone can rescue her friend. As she sets out on her treacherous journey, she soon discovers that the hard part may not be finding Jack — it may be convincing him to come home.

Child of the Owl

Age Level: 12-14

Set in the mid-1960s, 12-year-old Casey knows little about her Chinese background and only identifies herself as an American. When she moves to Chinatown in San Francisco to live with her maternal grandmother, she feels alienated and isolated, though she gradually comes to accept and understand her Chinese background. Written for young adolescents, this award-winning book is part of the Golden Mountain Chronicles.

Children of the River

Age Level: 14-16

"Seventeen-year-old Sundara is torn between her Cambodian family's expectations and her desire to become more American now that she has been forced to relocate along with her aunt's family following the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge…The captivating, touching, and sometimes tragic story by Linda Crew (Delacorte, 1989) touches upon issues of culture, history, gender, and race wrapped around an engaging romance." — Library Journal

Dragonwings

Moon Shadow is only eight years old when he sails from China to join his father in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 1900s. Readers travel through history, gaining insight about being Chinese in America in this thoroughly researched, riveting novel. Written for young adolescents, this Newbery Honor winner is part of the Golden Mountain Chronicles.

Dumpling Days

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Pacy is back! This summer, Pacy's family is going to Taiwan for an entire month to visit family and prepare for their grandmother's 60th birthday celebration. Pacy's parents have signed her up for a Chinese painting class, and at first she's excited. But everything about the trip is harder than she thought it would be. At least the dumplings are delicious…

Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Over a million South Vietnamese children were orphaned by the Vietnam War. This affecting true account tells the story of Long, who, like more than 40,000 other orphans, is Amerasian — a mixed-race child — with little future in Vietnam. Escape from Saigon allows readers to experience Long's struggle to survive in war-torn Vietnam, his dramatic escape to America as part of "Operation Babylift" during the last chaotic days before the fall of Saigon, and his life in the United States as "Matt," part of a loving Ohio family.

Goodbye Vietnam

Age Level: 9-12

Forced to leave the turmoil and political unrest of their native Vietnam, 13-year old Mai and her family cram into a boat and make way for Hong Kong and ultimately to America. Mai's voice provides a necessary distance as she chronicles the journey and its horrors in with even tone.

Kira-Kira

Age Level: 12-14

Two Japanese American sisters grow up in post World War II America in this Newbery winning book. Katie is the little sister to Lynn, and Lynn is her mentor and friend. When Lynn develops a terminal illness, Katie must try to keep her spirit alive and "kira-kira." This is also a wonderful audiobook.

Molly by Any Other Name

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Where did she come from? Molly Jane Fletcher was adopted. She's known it for as long as she can remember. It's not something that usually bothers her, but lately, it's all she can think about. Now Molly has a chance to find her birthmother — a chance to understand where she came from, and why she was given away. But the Fletchers aren't happy about her decision to unearth the past. They're afraid that everyone involved may get hurt. That's a chance that Molly may be willing to take.

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been three united against That Which is The Peshtigo School. But suddenly understanding and sticking up for a best friend isn't as easy as it used to be. Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab. Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start "hearing" his ancestors.

Project Mulberry

Age Level: 9-12

Free spirited Julia and her inquisitive friend Patrick are raising silk worms for the county fair — a project that's a little too 'Korean' for all-American Julia's tastes. The story, heavily influenced by first-generation American Park's youth, is framed by entertaining 'conversations' between author and protagonist. A fun and funny story about prejudice, acceptance, and how to find a good source of Mulberry leaves.

Spirit Hunters

By: Ellen Oh
Age Level: 12-14

Ellen Oh, founder of the We Need Diverse Books movement, returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery about Harper Raine, a Korean-American new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

Illustrated by: Abigail Halpin
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Eleven-year-old Dini loves everything about movies — especially Bollywood movies. So she would have been really excited about her family's move to India…if they were moving anywhere near Bombay, the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini's all-time most favorite favorite star, Dolly Singh. But no. Dini's now stuck in a teeny, tiny village that she can't even find on a map. But small villages can have surprises!

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Age Level: 14-16

This non-fiction account of a medical crisis in the Hmong community is as compelling as any novel. When baby Lia is born to a Hmong family, she shows signs of possibly epilepsy. Conflicting medical opinions between the traditional Hmong and the American medical establishment show that neither side is completely right.

The Thing About Luck

Age Level: 9-12

There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck — which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this winner of the National Book Award by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata. Summer knows that kouun means "good luck" in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan — right before harvest season.

Wait for Me

By: An Na
Age Level: 14-16

The relationships, tensions and life of a hardworking Korean-American family are told from two perspectives, that of college bound Mina and her younger, hearing impaired sister. Readers will recognize the problems and issues that Mina and her family face.