During the last few days of Asian American Pacific Island (AAPI) Heritage Month, we wanted to share and celebrate stories that honor the AAPI experience. These past couple of years have been a challenging time for the AAPI community, and as it heals and grows, it’s important to hold these stories in our hearts and in our society.
Below is an AAPI YA Reading List for you to enjoy this month and throughout the year. The selected books range from graphic memoirs to literary fiction. And while all of these stories are vast and different – from a young LGBTQ teen immigrating from Wuhan, China to Texas (Messy Roots) to a South Asian teenage girl falling in love for the first time (American Betiya) to a Filipino-American teenage boy uncovering the truth behind his cousin’s death — they all explore universal feelings of longing, loneliness, and love.
Messy Roots by Laura Gao
In this graphic novel memoir, Laura recounts her childhood of growing up in Wuhan, China, where she rode water buffalos with her cousins, before immigrating to Texas, where she loses her birth name and becomes “Laura.” In Messy Roots, Laura invites the reader to join her as she learns what it means to be “American” and to discover her own true self and sexuality.
American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Rani Kelkar has always been a “good Indian daughter,” but then she meets Oliver, a white boy who is the physical representation of her parents’ worst nightmare. They start dating in secret, which brings up conflicting feelings and expands Rani’s worldview and pushes her boundaries. But when she goes to Pune, India for the summer, she learns about herself and the true nature of her relationship with Oliver.
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
When Jay Reguero’s cousin, Jun, gets murder, Jay travels to the Philippines to uncover the truth about his cousin’s death. No one in his family will talk about or give any real answers. So Jay has to go and find out for himself. In Manila, he learns more about his cousin and the life he led and what truly happened.
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Darius is a high school sophomore living in Portland, Oregon. He’s overweight, has clinical depression, and is Persian – the perfect target for high school bullies. When his babou (grandfather) becomes ill, his family travels to Iran where he meets his grandparents for the first time and the boy who helps Darius’ babou, Sohrab. During a game of soccer, the two boys bond, and for the first time, Darius finds a true friend.
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
Jayne and June Baek are nothing alike. Jayne is the “perfect” older sister with the finance job and the impressive apartment. Jayne is still in school, dating a less-than-stellar boy, and struggling to get by. But when Jayne is diagnosed with cancer, these estranged sisters are forced to live together and to rebuild their relationship. But while Jayne takes care of her sister, she’s also forced to face her own issues.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
In this graphic novel memoir, Robin Ha recounts growing up as an only child in South Korean in the 90s with her single mother. But a vacation to Huntsville, Alabama suddenly becomes permanent, thanks to her mother’s wedding announcement. Without a single friend and unable to communicate with anyone, Robin suddenly becomes isolated. But when Robin’s mother enrolls her in a comic drawing class, it changes the trajectory of Robin’s life.