Asian American Voices in Young Adult Literature, a #YAAtoZ guest post by Kristyn Dorfman
Today for YA A to Z we are delighted to present with you a discussion of Asian American Voices in YA Literature by library Kristyn Dorfman.
The need for diverse narratives has always been important but that has not always been apparent in the books we see published. Now, finally, diverse stories have been gaining more traction, though ever so slowly. Growing up, I often found it difficult to find books about people that looked like me or whose lives felt similar to my own. I have always been an avid reader and though this did not deter my voraciousness, I am sure there are many that are clamoring for stories about their own experiences and feel like reading is not for them because they cannot find themselves. It is also a disservice to others to not allow them the opportunity to see and experience lives different than their own. I believe that understanding another’s viewpoints, experiences, and perspectives allows us to be more empathetic individuals.
To that end, I am very excited to share a variety of new(ish) and exciting books with Asian American Protagonists (mostly) written by Asian Americans. This list includes a wide variety of Asian experiences and if there are any titles I have missed, especially those with male protagonists, that you feel should definitely be included, please feel free to comment below! Enjoy!
(Reviews from Follett or Publisher via Titlewave.com)
Ahmadi, Arvin. Down and Across. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018.
Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.
With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.
He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try-all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.
Ahmed, Samira. Love, Hate and Other Filters. Soho Teen, 2018.
17-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: a good school, an arranged marriage. And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school, living in New York City, pursuing the boy she’s liked for ages. But unbeknownst to Maya, there is a danger looming beyond her control. When a terrorist attack occurs in another Midwestern city, the prime suspect happens to share her last name. In an instant, Maya’s community, consumed by fear and hatred, becomes unrecognizable, and her life changes forever.
Ali, S.K. Saints & Misfits. Salaam Reads, 2017.
Fifteen-year-old Janna Yusuf, a Flannery O’Connor-obsessed book nerd and the daughter of the only divorced mother at their mosque, tries to make sense of the events that follow when her best friend’s cousin–a holy star in the Muslim community–attempts to assault her at the end of sophomore year.
Ali also has an article in the December 2017 issue of VOYA entitled, “Muslim Representation: The Case for Expecting Diversity within Diversity.”
Bowman, Akemi Dawn. Starfish. Simon Pulse, 2017.
Kiko Himura yearns to escape the toxic relationship with her mother by getting into her dream art school, but when things do not work out as she hoped Kiko jumps at the opportunity to tour art schools with her childhood friend, learning life-changing truths about herself and her past along the way.
Chao, Gloria. American Panda. Simon Pulse, 2018.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
Chee, Traci. The Reader. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016.
(Sequel: The Speaker, 2017)
Set in a world where reading is unheard-of, Sefia makes use of a mysterious object to track down who kidnapped her aunt Nin and what really happened the night her father was murdered.
Chen, Justina. Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018.
When Viola Li returns from a trip, she develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity — an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn’t just have to wear layers of clothes and spaceship-sized hat. She has to avoid all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat.
Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He’s a funny, talented Thor look-alike with his own mysterious grief. But their romance makes her take more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life — and love — as deep and lovely as her dreams.
Dao, Julie C. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Philomel Books, 2017.
Beautiful eighteen-year-old Xifeng, raised by a cruel aunt who says the stars destine her to be Empress of Feng Lu, chooses to spurn the man who loves her and exploit the dark magic that can make her dream real.
De La Cruz, Melissa. Something in Between. Harlequin Teen, 2016.
After learning of her family’s illegal immigrant status, Jasmine realizes that college may be impossible and that deportation is a real threat, uncertainties she endures as she falls for the son of a congressman who opposes an immigration reform bill.
Gilbert, Kelly Loy. Picture Us in the Light. Disney-Hyperion, 2018.
Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realises there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined. As Danny digs deeper, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.
Goo, Maurene. I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017.
A disaster in romance, high school senior Desi Lee decides to tackle her flirting failures by watching Korean television dramas, where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten.
Goo, Maurene. The Way You Make Me Feel. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2018.
Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?
Heilig, Heidi. The Girl from Everywhere. Greenwillow Books, 2016.
(Sequel: The Ship Beyond Time, 2017)
Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may come to an end.
Liu, Liana. Shadow Girl. HarperTeen, 2017.
A young girl, hoping to escape her family drama, begins tutoring a rich man’s daughter, but when she develops feelings for herstudent’s brother, along with strange noises in the house, she can’t shake the fear that there is danger lurking amidst this beautiful mansion.
Lo, Malinda. A Line in the Dark. Dutton Books, 2017
When Chinese American teenager Jess Wong’s best friend Angie falls in love with a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess expects heartbreak. But when everybody’s secrets start to be revealed, the stakes quickly elevate from love or loneliness to life or death.
Menon, Sandhya. When Dimple Met Rishi. Simon Pulse, 2017.
When Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel meet at a Stanford University summer program, Dimple is avoiding her parents’ obsession with “marriage prospects” but Rishi hopes to woo her into accepting arranged marriage with him.
Oh, Axie. Rebel Seoul. Tu Books, 2017.
In Neo Seoul in the year 2199, pilot Lee Jaewon is tasked with spying on supersoldier Tera. Lee begins to have feelings for her and finds his loyalty to the government faltering.
Patel, Sonia. Rani Patel in Full Effect. Cinco Puntos Press, 2016.
Rani Patel, almost seventeen and living on remote Moloka’i island, is oppressed by the cultural norms of her Gujarati immigrant parents but when Mark, an older man, draws her into new experiences red flags abound.
Pon, Cindy. Want. Simon Pulse, 2017
Jason Zhou is trying to survive in Taipei, a city plagued by pollution and viruses, but when he discovers the elite are using their wealth to evade the deadly effects, he knows he must do whatever is necessary to fight the corruption and save his city.
Pung, Alice. Lucy and Linh. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.
In Australia, Lucy tries to balance her life at home surrounded by her Chinese immigrant family, with her life at a pretentious private school.
Redgate, Riley. Noteworthy. Amulet Books, 2017.
Feeling undervalued because of musical talents that place her outside the spotlight, Jordan disguises herself as a boy to gain entry into a competitive, all-male a cappella group that is looking for a singer with her vocal range.
Sugiura, Misa. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret. HarperTeen, 2017.
Sixteen-year-old Sana has too many secrets, but when she and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s time she finally be honest with her family.
Wong, Corrie. The Takedown. Freeform Books, 2017
In this near-future mystery, Kyla Cheng, the smartest, hottest, most popular student at her Brooklyn high school, gets taken down a peg by a faked sex tape that goes viral.
Yee, F.C. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. Amulet Books, 2017.
The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered. Enter Quentin, a mysterious transfer student from China who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. Genie has no idea that Quentin, in another reality, is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate, right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches. Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.
Meet Kristyn Dorfman
Kristyn is a Middle and Upper School Librarian (grades 5-12) at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, NY. She also reviews for School Library Journal. Kristyn is a native Brooklynite and the mother of two amazing little people. You can often find her behind a book, behind a cup of coffee, or singing broadway musicals off key at inappropriate times.
Filed under: #YAAtoZ
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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