Category Archives: Asian-American Experience

Piece by Piece

Written by: Susan Tan

Illustrated by: Justine Wong

For ages: 5-12 years

Language: English, a few Chinese words. 

Topics Covered: Family, Asian-American Experience, Chinese-American Identity, History, Historical Architecture, Museums, Social-Emotional Learning, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

This book is about Emmy, and the strong relationship she has with her grandmother Nainai who lives in China.  Nainai comes to visit during the summer, and the special activity the two of them share is going to new museums every week.  Before leaving, Nainai makes a blanket for Emmy out of fabrics that have memories for the both of them attached.  Emmy loves the blanket very much, and takes it everywhere.  Emmy’s dad takes them to a new museum and says there is something very special to show her there, but Emmy is skeptical because Nainai isn’t there with her.

Suddenly Emmy realizes her beloved blanket is missing, and is distraught.  Assured by the museum staff that they’ll be on the lookout, Emmy realizes that they’re near an entire house like the one Nainai grew up in, inside the museum!  The pair is at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.  There’s really a house brought from China inside!  Emmy walks around the house, steeped in memories of Nainai.

This is a beautiful book about both big emotions and Chinese family history.  Emmy has a lot of sadness and grief that Nainai is back in China, and grapples with these big emotions during her exploration of the house.  We are lucky enough to live in the Boston area and have been to the PEM, getting into our own exploration of the house!  In the back of the book is more historical information about the house, and how it got from China to the museum.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Tan-Author-Photo-683x1024Susan Tan “wanted to be a children’s author since eighth grade when I was named “most likely to be a children’s book writer” in the middle school yearbook. In high school, I worked in the Children’s Room of my local public library, and in college I sketched picturebook outlines in the margins of my school notes. 

But I didn’t really start writing books of my own until after college, when I was earning my PhD at the University of Cambridge in Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature (sense a pattern?). I began writing funny stories from my childhood while I rode the bus in the mornings, and in bed before I fell asleep at night. These stories gradually came together into my first book, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire.

Cilla is based on my own family and deals with the questions, challenges, and many joys that navigating different racial and cultural identities can bring. A second book in the Cilla series, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book is A Classic will be released this March, with a third Cilla book coming in 2019.

More about me: I was the 2015 Gish Jen Emerging Writers Fellow at the Writers’ Room of Boston, and when I’m not writing, crocheting, or reading, you can find me teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.” 

Justine-Wong-Illustration-LORESJustine Wong is a food, book, and lifestyle illustrator based in Toronto. She is the creator behind the project ’21 Days in Japan: An Illustrative Study on Japanese Cuisine’, consisting of paintings for 100 meals discovered while she traveled Japan. She has since lived in Tokyo for a year and have the pleasure of illustrating in editorial publications, story books, and advertising campaigns in Canada and internationally. Most recently, Justine illustrated her first children’s book ‘Piece by Piece’ for Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

When she is not illustrating, you can find her beach-combing along a coastline, tending to her backyard garden, or having soft conversations with her two cats Kumo and Opi. 🙂

She is also a dedicated member of Toronto creative collectives Lunchroom and Makeshift Collective, where they practice and rebuild the ways we collaborate and grow together.

The roots of the Peabody Essex Museum date to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The society’s charter included a provision for the establishment of a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,” which is what we today would call a museum. Society members brought to Salem a diverse collection of objects from the northwest coast of America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and elsewhere. By 1825, the society moved into its own building, East India Marine Hall, which today contains the original display cases and some of the very first objects collected.

They Called Us Enemy

Created by: George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, Harmony Becker

For ages: YA-Middle and High School

Language: English, some Japanese. 

Topics Covered: Japanese Internment, Historical Figures, Historical Events, WWII, Growing Up, LGBTQ, Japanese-American Experience, Own Voices, Graphic Novel. 

Summary: This is an incredible graphic novel, telling of historical events that are rarely taught in schools. Deciding to post it today, February 19th, acknowledges a day that Japanese Americans call Remembrance Day, commemorating the passage of Executive Order 9066.  This executive order decreed that “excluded persons” could be removed from active military zones (the entirety of the west coast) and interned elsewhere.  While 9066 never said specifically what types of people were excluded, this became the basis for the removal of Japanese and Japanese Americans into camps for the next several years.  National Treasure George Takei and his family were just 5 of the 120,000 individuals relocated (several times) into internment camps.

George and his family were shuttled around for several years, his father engaging in community-building work and becoming elected barrack manager several times.  Upon release, the family moved back to Los Angeles and rebuilt their life.  The graphic novel also covers George growing up and becoming an actor, including emotional scenes where he visits the house of the president that was a proponent of the camps in the first place.

They Called Us Enemy is woven together with George’s memories, discussions with his father when he was a teen, and a Ted Talk.  This memoir describes events as perceived by a child, thinking they were going on vacation, as well as the political climate at the time of WWII and life in the camps.  The United States is no stranger to committing atrocities against people it fears.  Having a personal account of what happened to citizens in recent years gives a look into what can still happen today, if control over the democratic process is not regained by citizens.  We highly recommend this book, it’s crucial that young people today learn about what can happen when fear takes over and human rights are forgotten.

About the Creators:

249949f3-4100-4acc-8e36-67150780c4b1._CR266,0,1059,1059_PT0_SX300__George Takei is known worldwide for playing Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek: The Original Series. But Takei’s story goes where few have gone before. After a childhood spent in Japanese American internment camps during WWII, he has become a leading figure in the fight for social justice and LGBTQ rights. Mashable named him the most influential person on Facebook, with 10.4 million likes and 2.8 million Twitter followers.

Justin Eisinger is Editorial Director at IDW, with over twelve years in graphic storytelling. He seeks to create engaging, impactful non-fiction stories.

Steven Scott has worked in comics since 2010, and has written for Archie, Arcana Studios, and Heavy Metal, among others.

Artist Harmony Becker has created Himawari Share, Love Potion, and Anemone and Catharus. Part of a multicultural family, she has lived in South Korea and Japan.

Color Outside the Lines: Stories About Love

Written by: Adam Silvera, Samira Ahmed, Michelle Ruiz Keil, Danielle Paige, Eric Smith, Sangu Mandanna, Elsie Chapman, Anna-Marie McLemore, Lauren Gibaldi, Kelly Zekas & Tarun Shanker, Lori M. Lee, Caroline Tung Richmond, Karuna Riazi, L.L. McKinney, Tara Sim, Lydia Kang

Edited by: Sangu Mandanna

For ages: YA

Language: English predominantly 

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, LGBTQ Relationships, Growing Up, POC-Centric Narratives, Love, Family, Supernatural, Interracial Dating, Family, Black Culture & Identity, Activism, Asian-American Experience, Culture & Traditions. 

Summary: This book is AMAZING. The short story anthology focuses on LGBTQ and/or interracial relationships, and truly there is nothing like it that I’ve read ever.  These underrepresented voices are compiled into one beautiful book that spans both genres and time itself.

All of the stories in the book are great, but there were a few that were enjoyed most of all.  Death and the Maiden is a breathtaking tale, retelling the story of Hades and Persephone but with a twist.  It’s one of the longer stories (which is still only about 20 pages) and I was hooked from beginning to end!  Giving Up the Ghost was another story that fascinated me.  In the story, people are matched up with a ghostly ancestor from their family at the age of 9.  This is such a creative concept for world-building, and it left me wanting both more to the story and my own family ghost!

This is a book that amplifies marginalized voices in a powerful way.  It makes differences in humanity front and center, and honestly it’s very emotional to open a book knowing that so many lived experiences that are often oppressed or ignored will be written on the pages.  We highly recommend this book!

About the Authors & the Editor:

sangu-2019Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These images with author information were taken from the back of the book:

265

266

267

268

269

 

Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Korean-American Experience, Lunar New Year, Culture & Traditions, Holidays, Friendship, Single-Parent Family, Lunar New Year, Safety, Social-Emotional Development, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

Happy Lunar New Year!  This book was released on January 14th, but we decided to wait to feature it until the actual holiday.  Mindy Kim is back for another adventure, this time taking the plunge and attending a parade in Orlando with her dad and friend Sally.

Mindy is feeling a little apprehensive because it’s the first Lunar New Year since her mom died, and she’s not quite ready to have as much fun as in years prior.  She insists on wearing her old hanbok (a ceremonial Korean garment) despite it being too small, because it was the last one her mother bought her.  This book, like the last one, offers a multitude of conversation options about Mindy’s feelings and events that happen at the parade.  Sally is a great character too.  Despite being white, she’s very excited to try Korean foods and learn different customs like how to bow properly.  She embraces the unfamiliar with gusto, and is excited to learn more about her friend.

Lunar New Year Parade normalizes the bicultural experience that so many kids and families live.  We love having an early chapter book that seamlessly weaves in Korean vocabulary and social-emotional learning into it’s story.  Definitely excited to see the next installment in the series!

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. I’m focused on children books, game design, character design.

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Parent Loss, Korean-American Experience, New Experiences, Moving, Growing Up, Family, Social-Emotional Learning, Friendship, Single-Parent Families.

Summary: 

This is an adorable early chapter book that we are so excited to bring you on Korean-American Day! Min-jung Kim, who also goes by Mindy, has just moved with her father from California to Florida.  The book follows Mindy trying to make friends and fit in, using her classmates’ interest in her seaweed snacks to start a business.

I really enjoyed this book!  Mindy is a clever and enjoyable narrator, I found myself chuckling at her phrasing of things.  This series is an important contribution to chapter books in this age group because it introduces a lot of the reasoning behind social-emotional skill development.  Mindy thinks about what she says and does, and the reasoning behind doing something that she doesn’t wholly want to do (like apologizing to a friend).  Mindy also takes careful note of how she’s treated by her teacher, which can open up opportunity for discussion about microaggressions and being a minoritized student.  There is definitely a void in Own Voices literature about the Korean-American experience, and maintaining one’s cultural identity when faced with disdain or confusion from peers.  Mindy is also coping with the loss of a parent, another family situation that isn’t common in many books that we’ve read.  Overall, this book is a fantastic resource for multiple experiences and opportunity for classroom and family discussion about tricky topics.

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.  This book comes out TOMORROW!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. They are focused on children books, game design, character design.

My Footprints

Written by: Bao Phi

Illustrated by: Basia Tran

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Imagination, LGBTQ Families, Bullying, Xenophobia, Family, Love, LGBTQ, Growing Up, Girls Outdoors.

Summary: 

My Footprints is a lovely book that tackles some tough subjects. Thuy, our main character, is walking home from school making footprints in the snow and thinking about how kids have been making fun of her for a slew of reasons. When she gets home, she’s greeted by both of her mothers who were shoveling snow outside. Together the three of them use imaginations to think critically about the situation and if those mean things that were said are true or worth thinking about. 

We think that this book is really important to use as a way to foster discussion about bullying and the things that were being said to Thuy. She’s teased for having two moms and told to “go back to where she came from”. Both homophobia and xenophobia are incredibly sensitive topics that are all over the media currently as well as near to our hearts. Being queer people that plan to have children one day, we are optimistic that things may change but realistic about the fact that there is a very good chance we will be having these conversations with a tiny person we wish we could shield the horrors of the world from. We are white, but we have family that immigrated here and have been profoundly harassed for being different. These are very real experiences that children have at school, and it does no good to shield others from this reality. Having a book like My Footprints that addresses tough times while not making it the focus is crucial. The author does a fantastic job of making Thuy and her mothers’ imagination be the healing power that their family needs. Focusing on the love instead of the hate, we can have tough conversations with those around us to create more empathy and windows into the lives of others around us. 

It’s personally one of the best books of the year in our opinion.

This book was sent to us by the Capstone for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List put on by the Read With River book club. All opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Bao-byMichaelTranBao Phi has been a performance poet since 1991.  A two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, Bao Phi has appeared on HBO Presents Russell Simmons Def Poetry, featured in the live performances and taping of the blockbuster diasporic Vietnamese variety show Paris By Night 114: Tôi Là Người Việt Nam, and a poem of his appeared in the 2006 Best American Poetry anthology. His poems and essays are widely published in numerous publications including Screaming Monkeys and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. He has also released several CDs of his poetry, such as Refugeography and The Nguyens EP. A short story of his, Revolution Shuffle, appeared in the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Stories from Social Justice Movements, AK Press, 2015, and an essay of his was included in the anthology A Good Time for the Truth, edited by Sun Yung Shin, Minnesota Historical Society Press.

f070c83af410a5afeec167f172d086ec92bbee98Basia Tran is a Polish-Vietnamese children’s book and lifestyle illustrator currently based in her hometown Kraków, Poland.
Illustration BFA with Honors, Ringling College of Art & Design, Sarasota FL, USA
· · ·
Basia Tran jest polsko-wietnamską ilustratorką książeczek dla dzieci oraz designerką. Ukończyła studia z honorami na wydziale ilustratorstwa w Ringling College of Art & Design w Sarasocie na Florydzie i aktualnie mieszka i pracuje w pięknym, rodzinnym Krakowie.
· · ·
Basia Trần là một họa sĩ minh họa và thiết kế đồ họa người Việt Nam và Ba Lan. Bố mẹ của Basia sinh ra ở Thái Bình, nhưng Basia đã được sinh ra và lớn lên ở Kraków, Ba Lan. Tốt nghiệp đại học tại Ringling College of Art & Design ở Sarasota, Mỹ, bây giờ Basia đang làm việc ở quê nhà tại Kraków, Ba Lan. 
E-mail: tranbasia@gmail.com

Front Desk

Written by: Kelly Yang

Cover Art by: Maike Plenzke

For ages: Middle Grades YA Book

Language: English, slight Mandarin.

Topics Covered: Immigration, Racism, Friendship, Family, Growing Up.

Summary: Mia Tang and her parents emigrated from China two years before the book begins.  When the book begins, it is summertime in California and the family is living in their car.  Soon, a job opportunity to manage a hotel pops up and the family jumps at the chance.  The owner of the hotel is named Mr. Yao and he is not kind.  He finds every opportunity to withhold paychecks from the family.  He is racist, rude, and Mia does not like him one bit, especially because he won’t let her go swimming in the pool.  The hotel is in a new school district, and when Mia starts the 5th grade she is only 1 of 2 Asian students in the whole grade.  The other is Jason, Mr. Yao’s son.  The pair do not get along.  Mia takes on front desk responsibilities with gusto, and befriends the “weeklies” quickly.  These longtime guests live at the hotel, and together they form a ragtag family.

Mia makes a single friend at school, Lupe.  Lupe and her family are also immigrants, and very poor like Mia’s family.  Other than Lupe, Mia is teased mercilessly.  Mia is hurt, but has other more important things to spend her time doing.  She desperately wants to be a writer, despite her mother telling her to focus on math instead.  Mia begins writing letters to get practice, and comes across an essay contest where the winner receives a small motel in Vermont!  Earning the money for the entry fee, working the front desk, and dealing with Mr. Yao is more than enough for a young girl to handle.  Then her parents begin receiving visitors.  Other immigrants from China that are in much worse states than the Tangs.  Mia’s parents let them stay the night for free at the hotel without Mr. Yao’s knowledge, and feed them.  Soon a system is developed where Mia wears a hat when Mr. Yao is around so people know not to show up.

This book is fascinating, and comes with an extensive Author’s Note detailing many of the events in the book and how they happened to the author herself, in real life!  There are many parallels between Mia and Kelly’s life, as Kelly Yang’s family also managed hotels in California when Kelly was young.  This is an awesome book.  It’s funny, heartfelt, and talks about the strength and resilience found in the immigrant youth experience.

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

Kelly-Yang-300x300-circleKelly Yang is the author of FRONT DESK (Scholastic) and the winner of the 2018 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature. FRONT DESK is an award-winning debut middle grade novel about a 10 year old Chinese American immigrant girl who manages the front desk of a motel while her parents clean the rooms. FRONT DESK was awarded the 2018 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal, is the 2019 Global Read Aloud, and has earned numerous other honors including being named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a NPR Best Book of the Year, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.

 

Kelly immigrated to America when she was 6 years old and grew up in Southern California, where she and her parents worked in three different motels. She eventually left the motels and went to college at the age of 13 and law school at the age of 17. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where she majored in Political Science, and Harvard Law School. After law school, she gave up law to pursue her passion of writing and teaching children writing. She is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project (kellyyang.edu.hk), a leading writing and debating program for kids in Asia.

 

As a teacher, Kelly helped thousands of children find their voice and become better writers and more powerful speakers. Before turning to fiction, she was also a columnist for the South China Morning Post for many years. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She has three children and splits her time between Hong Kong and San Francisco, California. 

maike-profile02_small_400

Maike Plenzke and is a freelance illustrator and comic book artist from Berlin.
She loves drawing diverse women and to explore nature in her work.