Courageous Girls and Women: Asian Pacific American Heritage

These books tell the stories of girls and women who refused to take no for an answer. During their lives, they made difficult and courageous decisions and journeys, perservering despite long odds. Many of the books are based on family stories and historical events.

A Jar of Dreams

Age Level: 9-12

"I never thought one small lady from Japan could make such a big difference in my life, but she did." So begins Rinko's story about the time that Aunt Waka came to visit. From Mama's new business to Papa's new courage in standing up to Depression-era discrimination against the Japanese, Rinko can barely keep up with the way that everyone in the house (herself included) is changing. Rinko and her relatives are unforgettable characters whose stories are told with an easy familiarity, warmth, and gentle humor.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

Age Level: 6-9

This book, based on experiences of the author's mother and grandparents, tells the story of a Japanese American family relocated to an internment camp in Utah. Even in the harsh landscape of the desert, a young girl is able to find beauty in unlikely places, and to re-establish her identity through art, by drawing what she remembers of her life before coming to the camp. Historical notes included. Bilingual English and Japanese.

Aani and the Tree Huggers

Age Level: 6-9

Based on true events in northern India, this is the story of a little girl's bravery. Distinctive color illustrations, inspired by Indian miniature painting, accompany the moving story.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Fly Free!

Illustrated by: Eujin Kim Neilan
Age Level: 6-9

Product description: "Fly free, fly free, in the sky so blue, When you do a good deed, it will come back to you." Mai loves feeding the caged birds near the temple but dreams that one day she'll see them fly free. Then she meets Thu and shares the joy of feeding the birds with her. This sets a chain of good deeds in motion that radiates throughout her village and beyond. Set in Vietnam, Roseanne Thong's inspiring story is elegantly illustrated with watercolor on wood by Eujin Kim Neilan.

Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: "In 1933, seven-year-old Li Keng's father decided to bring his family from a small village in southern China to California. Getting to America was not easy…life in America during the Great Depression brought many exciting surprises as well as a few disappointments. Hunger, poverty, police raids, frequent moves, and the occasional sting of racism were a part of everyday life, but slowly Li Keng and her family found stability and a true home in Gold Mountain."

Hiromi's Hands

Age Level: 6-9

Meet Hiromi, a young girl who wants to follow in her father's footsteps as a sushi chef in New York City. Although Papa is reluctant to take Hiromi to the fish market at first, he soon realizes that she is truly interested in his craft, and he begins to train his daughter, who will eventually become one of the first female sushi chefs in New York. Based on a true story, this story offers a kid-friendly and fascinating look into the art of sushi, as well as the possibilities that America offers in bringing different cultures together.

My Freedom Trip

Illustrated by: Steve Jenkins
Age Level: 9-12

In this intense and moving book, Frances and Ginger Park share the story of their mother's escape from North Korea as a young girl. On the night that Soo prepares for her freedom trip, she bids her mother a tearful farewell and begins a journey during which she will travel by train and foot to reach the border with South Korea. Filled with suspense and heartache, the story is a tribute to those who set out for freedom — and those who stay behind.

Nim and the War Effort

Age Level: 6-9

Nim, a young girl living in San Francisco's Chinatown during World War II, is determined to collect the tallest stack of newspapers to support her school's newspaper drive and the national ongoing war effort. The story and its evocative illustrations depict the cultural traditions and quiet determination of a Chinese American family trying to embrace their American identity while the country is at war with Japan.

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

A woman in a lab coat sits in front of books and physics symbols float around her.
Illustrated by: Rebecca Huang
Age Level: 3-6

When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay.


Illustrated by: Ed Young
Age Level: 6-9

This is a picture book edition of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, meant for younger readers. It tells the story of a girl dying of leukemia as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Seesaw Girl

Age Level: 9-12

Jade longs to see the world beyond the walls of her family's household. But Jade lives in 17th century Korea, where girls and women are restricted. When she figures out a way to get to the outside world, Jade's observations and experiences reveal a different time and place, but also dreams and wishes that contemporary readers will recognize.

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

By: Paula Woo
Illustrated by: Lin Wang
Age Level: 6-9

Anna May Wong grew up in San Francisco in the 1920s, working diligently in her family's laundromat but secretly daydreaming of becoming a movie star. When she set out to realize her dream, she soon discovered the lack of opportunity in Hollywood for Asian American actors. After traveling in Europe and China, Anna May ultimately decided to portray only roles she felt presented a positive image of Asians, leading the way for the many actors who followed in her footsteps.

Sylvia & Aki

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school. Aki Munemitsu never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year. The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever. Based on a true story.

Tea with Milk

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 9-12

At home, Masako speaks Japanese and sips green tea with her parents. But at her friends' houses near San Francisco, May speaks English and enjoys pancakes and tea with milk and sugar. When May's parents decide to return to Japan, she feels lost. May finally begins to find her way in the big city of Osaka, where she makes a special friend who also speaks English — and drinks his tea with milk and sugar. Allen Say brings tenderness and humor to his mother's unforgettable story in this beautiful tribute to his parents.

The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani

Age Level: 6-9

Hawai'i was once an independent country ruled by a royal family. But, while Princess Ka'iulani was at school in England in the 1800s, the small island nation became part of the United States — and she never got a chance to become queen. This intriguing, quiet, bittersweet story presents a little known period and a real-life princess. It is a well-told and handsome book was created by a mother-daughter team.

The Song of Mu Lan

Age Level: 6-9

Jeanne M. Lee presents the ancient Chinese folk poem that tells the legend of Mu Lan. Dressed as a young man, Mu Lan goes to battle in her father's place and becomes a revered warrior even as those around her don't know her true identity. Beautifully detailed illustrations accompany the poem, as does a brief author's note. Bilingual English-Chinese.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 9-12

Join Minli as she journeys to save her village and her family from a dreary fate. A storyteller's voice effectively brings to life this unforgettable award-winning novel, illustrated with exquisite Chinese paintings.

Yasmin's Hammer

Illustrated by: Doug Chayka
Age Level: 6-9

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, as two girls work hard all day to help support their family by chipping bricks into small pieces, older sister Yasmin seeks a way to attend school and learn to read so that she can have a better life one day. Includes author's note about conditions in Bangladesh, child labor, and how to help.