Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Month Reading

It is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Please note the month is not called Asian Pacific Islander month or API or AAPI. The extended name brings more recognition and value to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. While there are many shared bonds between Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, we cannot lump ourselves together and know we are equal. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders deserve recognition and the support of Asian and other communities.

Since it is AA/NHPI month I will share some of my favorite books by Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders. You can start to prep your summer reading list and for those of you who play Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures Summer Book BINGO this post is especially for you.

I aim to include authors of many different ethnicities. Some of these are books I’ve shared in other posts, but resharing them because they are wonderful and deserve to be read.

Children’s books

Tu Youyou’s Discovery Finding a Cure for Malaria – I just read this today and learned more about how a Chinese scientist, Tu Youyou, took Chinese herbal medicine, combined it with Western medicine and found a treatment for malaria. Her contribution to medicine has saved over 6.8-million people. This is a good non-fiction biography for elementary school kids.  

A Map Into the World – This is such a tender book to share with children who need reassurance that change is scary, but they can also anchor onto something known. It is by Hmong author Kao Kalia Yang. Make sure to check out her other books too, many of them are favorites.

Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon – Fauja Singh, a Sikh from Punjab, is a lonely elder, then discovers running as his passion in his 80s. He went on to become the first centenarian to complete a marathon.

From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea – This is the book I recommend when people tell me they like the Julian is a Mermaid books, no thanks to cultural appropriation in those books. From the Stars is written by a trans-Asian who is also a performing artist and psychotherapist. The story allows for wonderful conversations about identity and self-identity.

Yasmin series – This is one of my favorite beginning readers. Yasmin is a second-grade Pakistani American who shares her life with readers. Read all of her adventures.

Ohana Means Family – Sharing Native Hawaiian culture and lessons through the story of community in verse. “This is the land that’s never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana’s luau.” This is a delightful read-aloud book.

Graphic Novels and Short Stories

Superman Smashes the Klan – This fictionalized retelling of WWII American history is a great way to talk about anti-Asian racism during WWII and now.

Where’s Halmoni – My friend Heidi gave this book to my kid for Christmas several years ago. It is still a favorite. Two children go looking for their Korean grandma and take wild adventure to find her.

The Best We Could Do – Recounts Thi Bui’s family’s journey out of war-time Vietnam. Part memoir, part-love story to her child, and part healing journey as she gathers her mother’s painful past of escaping Vietnam and rebuilding a life in a new country.

Prince and the Dressmaker – My kid came home from school INSISTING I read this book. I’m glad I did. It is a quick read about how a peasant becomes the dressmaker to a prince who has a secret. The book is also available in Korean, hooray for translations!

Māui Tonga Tales is a collection of short stories from across the Pacific Islands. I borrowed this right before COVID and enjoyed having it for quite a while when the library was closed. This gave me a looooong time to read and re-read the stories in it, and dream of the Pacific Islands.

Adult Books

Goodbye Vitamin is a quick read about a young Asian American who has to go home and pickup the pieces of her aging father’s life. Part humorous, part sad, part adulting.

How to Hold Animals is not really an adult reading book, but ehh we should all enjoy this book. It is exactly what the title says, a book on how to hold different animals safely. The author is a zookeeper in Japan and has photographed how to hold different animals.

Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life by Alice Wong is coming out in the fall of 2022. I’m adding it to the list so you can look forward to it, and in the meantime check out her other book Disability Visibility.

Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Seattle author Angela Garbes just came out. It is a timely book exploring how COVID shakeup forced society to grapple with motherhood and caregiving. I haven’t read it yet, but looking forward to digging into it. Hat-tip Brooke for sharing the title. Make sure to read Garbes’ previous book Like a Mother.

The Korean Vegan Cookbook – Every good book list should include a cookbook. I aspire to eat more vegan food and this book is helping me find that inspiration. The pictures are art, the recipes look delicious and simple enough to make. I need to borrow it again from the library to really try a few of the recipes.

Happy reading AA/NHPI month! There are so many good Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander books out there. Make sure to read them and share them with others.

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I am writing from the lands of the 29 federally recognized and non-federally recognized tribes in now Washington State, including the Coast Salish people — Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, and Native American organizations that have treaty rights and have been here since time immemorial. I give my thanks to the elders, Native and Indigenous colleagues and relations, and the land itself. Fakequity pays “rent” to Native organizations in Washington and Hawaii; a small act to repair and work to be in more justice-based relations.