May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! This month provides an opportunity to reflect on the rich history, culture, and achievements of these communities and to celebrate their diversity and unique contributions to our society.
One great way to celebrate is to read some of the amazing stories that showcase such rich history and culture of these communities. Read on to see our ‘must-read’ book recommendations for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month!
Here are some of our top picks that are sure to enlighten and inspire:
From the Tops of the Trees
Winner of ALA’s Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Picture Book Category
“Father, is all of the world a refugee camp?”
Young Kalia has never known life beyond the fences of the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. The Thai camp holds many thousands of Hmong families who fled in the aftermath of the little-known Secret War in Laos that was waged during America’s Vietnam War. For Kalia and her cousins, life isn’t always easy, but they still find ways to play, racing with chickens and riding a beloved pet dog.
Just four years old, Kalia is still figuring out her place in the world. When she asks what is beyond the fence, at first her father has no answers for her. But on the following day, he leads her to the tallest tree in the camp and, secure in her father’s arms, Kalia sees the spread of a world beyond.
Kao Kalia Yang’s sensitive prose and Rachel Wada’s evocative illustrations bring to life this tender true story of the love between a father and a daughter.
“[T]his richly diverse and well-sourced work is conversational and lively…A must-have title.” — Kirkus Reviews
Read these profiles of forty-four women in leadership from both sides of the US political spectrum and from around the world to learn about their paths to power, their achievements and missteps, and their lasting legacies. Their stories teach us about the segments of society they represent through both their biographies and their actions in voting and policy decisions.
This book will show you what the road to power looks like for women in modern times. By showing up and representing women in the decisions that make or break a country, these leaders pave the way for future female politicians. Draw inspiration from these groundbreaking women to make a difference in your own world.
“A timely introduction for budding feminists.” — Booklist
The American Dream?
As a child growing up in Malaysia, Shing Yin Khor had two very different ideas of what “America” meant.
The first looked a lot like Hollywood, full of beautiful people, sunlight, and freeways. The second looked more like The Grapes of Wrath—a nightmare landscape filled with impoverished people, broken-down cars, barren landscapes, and broken dreams.
Follow along on Shing’s solo journey (small adventure-dog included) along the iconic Route 66, beginning in Santa Monica and ending up Chicago. What begins as a road trip ends up as something more like a pilgrimage in search of an American landscape that seems forever shifting and forever out of place.
Kimchi, Kimchi Every Day
A Bookstagang Best Read Aloud Book of 2022!
Whether round and crunchy like a kimchi pancake or pinched and plump like a kimchi dumpling, there are so many ways to enjoy this Korean traditional dish.
Explore the different ways to eat kimchi in this fun, rhyming tale that also teaches the days of the week. Korean-American author-illustrator Erica Kim shares her pride in her delicious cultural food through her cut paper art technique. The Hanji paper that is used to illustrate the book comes from a paper mulberry tree native to Korea.
This beautiful reflection of culture will inspire children to take pride in their cultural foods, too.
10 at 10: The Surprising Childhoods of Ten Remarkable People
Audrey Hepburn, Roberto Clemente, Albert Einstein—kids know the names, but do they know what some of history’s most famous figures were like at the age of ten? Carlyn Beccia presents ten brief and beautifully illustrated biographies to give young readers a fresh look at the lives of people they may only know through history books. Colorful timelines provide context and add additional details about these extraordinary lives.
Look for the biography of Eugenie Clark—known as the shark lady—who was a Japanese American researcher and ichthyologist.
Discover the origin story of Bruce Lee, a Hong Kong and American martial artist as well as actor, philosopher, and filmmaker.
A Map Into the World
“Filled with wonder and sorrow and happiness.” — Alison McGhee, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Someday
A heartfelt story of a young girl seeking beauty and connection in a busy world.
As the seasons change, so too does a young Hmong girl’s world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for?
A moving picture book debut from acclaimed Hmong American author Kao Kalia Yang.
The Most Beautiful Thing
“A deep and moving reflection on enduring hardship and generational love…Poignant storytelling with stunning visuals.” — starred, Kirkus Reviews
A warmhearted and tender true story about a young girl finding beauty where she never thought to look.
Drawn from author Kao Kalia Yang’s childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money. Weaving together Kalia’s story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family’s early years in the United States.
When Kalia becomes unhappy about having to do without and decides she wants braces to improve her smile, it is her grandmother—a woman who has just one tooth in her mouth—who helps her see that true beauty is found with those we love most. Stunning illustrations from Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le bring this intergenerational tale to life.
By reading these books, we can gain a better understanding of the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and celebrate their unique contributions to our society. This Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let’s take the time to learn, appreciate, and celebrate the stories and experiences of these diverse communities.