Thursday, May 2, 2013

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The Asian Pacific American Librarians Association gives out an award to "honor and recognize individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit." They give it out for picture books, children's books, young adult books and adult books. (Only in the past few years have children's and young adult been separate categories.

Here are some recent winners and honor books.


Orchards by Holly Thompson. After a classmate's suicide, bi-racial Kana Goldberg (half-Japanese, half-Jewish) is sent to Japan to spend the summer helping in her grandparents' orchards. There she must struggle to fit into a new culture and a family that doesn't understand her (or the size of her Russian-Jewish butt.) This verse novel won in 2011-2012.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang illustrated by Thien Pham. Dennis's parents want him to go to med school and be a doctor. He just wants to play video games. When four guardian angels arrive to tell Dennis to hit the books, he listens. But... who are these angels working for? This comic book was an honor in 2011-2012.

Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai. While fleeing Afghanistan, Fadi lets go of his sisters hand and she's lost in the crowd and left behind. Can a photography competition give him the change and funds he needs to go back to find her in the months following 9/11? This won in 2010-2011.


Everything Asian by Sung Woo. David is 12 and just arrived in the US. He hasn't seen his father in 5 years and is shocked to discover that dad's a loser and his mother and sister aren't adjusting to life in their new home. This was a winner in 2009-2010.

Roots and Wings by Many Ly. While in St. Petersburg, Florida, to give her grandmother a Cambodian funeral, fourteen-year-old Grace, who was raised in Pennsylvania, finally gets some answers about the father she never met, her mother's and grandmother's youth, and her Asian-American heritage. This won in 2008-2009.

Good Enough by Paula Yoo. A Korean American teenager tries to please her parents by getting into an Ivy League college, but a new guy in school and her love of the violin tempt her in new directions. This was an honor title in 2008-2009.


Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. Two Burmese boys, one a Karenni refugee and the other the son of an imprisoned Burmese doctor, meet in the jungle and in order to survive they must learn to trust each other. This was a children's literature honor title in 2010-2011, but it's really a young adult book.

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth. Leela was engaged at the age of two and married at the age of nine. At 13, she would move into her husband's house, but when he's suddenly killed, Leela is forced to shave her hair, smash her bangles, and wear muddy brown saris, never able to remarry. She must stay inside for a full year, but India is changing, and so is Leela. This was an honorable mention in 2007-2008.

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. Trying to balance her parent's Indian culture with being an American teen is hard enough, but Dimple has extra problems. Her (white) best friend is trying to co-opt her culture because it's trendy. She rejected the boy her parents set her up with (out of principle) but then realized that was a huge mistake. Plus, the usual teen issues. This was an honor book in 2001-2003.

Did you know about these awards? Any titles you think should win next year?

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