The term AAPI, or Asian American and Pacific Islander, includes 23 million Americans from roughly 50 ethnic groups with roots in more than 40 countries. This is a hugely diverse group, so it’s important to include AAPI books with ties to many countries and cultural backgrounds in your classroom library.
While AAPI Heritage Month in May is a wonderful time to engage students with AAPI books, you can and should incorporate these important stories into your classroom throughout the year.
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AAPI Picture Books
The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round by Wendy Wang-Long Sheng
This is a rhythmic take on “The Wheels on the Bus” but with rice and family. The tune and the family theme are easily relatable for kids.
Buy it: The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round on Amazon
Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
Another food book, this one tells the rhyming story of a Korean American family making the meat and rice dish bee-bim bop. The story celebrates intergenerational cooking, and the story weaves process and humor.
Buy it: Bee-Bim Bop! on Amazon
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
This book incorporates the phases of the moon and the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. The illustrations are sumptuous and the story provides opportunity to explore more about mooncakes and the moon.
Buy it: A Big Mooncake for Little Star on Amazon
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar
This is the story of a little boy who has a color for every occasion and feeling. Connect Harpreet’s story with how students feel about experiences in their own lives and how what we wear can celebrate who we are.
Buy it: The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh on Amazon
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed
This book tells the story of six-year-old Bilal, who is excited to cook and share daal. But what if his friends don’t like it?
Buy it: Bilal Cooks Daal on Amazon
Hair Twins by Raakhee Mirchandani
This story shares the Sikh hair tradition of twisting hair into a bun that’s worn under a turban. Mirchandani has created a heartwarming father-daughter combination and presented Sikh culture in a relatable way.
Buy it: Hair Twins on Amazon
I Am Golden by Eva Chen; Eyes That Kiss in the Corners and Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho
I Am Golden celebrates Chinese American experience and identity. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners and Eyes That Speak to the Stars celebrate Asian history and identity. Use these AAPI books to connect students with elements of Asian culture, and talk about what makes up their own family and cultural histories. Each book weaves culture, history, and identity alongside gorgeous illustrations.
American Desi by Jyoti Rajan Gopal
This story celebrates the bicultural experience of being South Asian in the United States. The illustrations in this book weave fabric with drawing to create colorful, vibrant images.
Buy it: American Desi on Amazon
Watercress by Andrea Wang
An autobiographical story that touches on a serious aspect of immigrating to the United States, this picture book is a must-read to build understanding and empathy.
Buy it: Watercress on Amazon
Where Three Oceans Meet by Rajani LaRocca
Hear a story that brings three generations of the same family together. It’s a reflection of the experience that so many AAPI families have when generations live around the globe.
Buy it: Where Three Oceans Meet on Amazon
Middle Grade AAPI Books by Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Help readers see the struggles of first-generation immigrants. Yang writes character Mia Tang’s story with a dose of humor. For readers who like Front Desk, Yang has written two other novels featuring Mia Tang, Three Keys and Room to Dream.
Buy it: Front Desk on Amazon
We Belong by Cookie Hiponia
This is a novel that weaves a tale that incorporates Phillppino family, tradition and culture through a story of a mythical daughter of a god.
Buy it: We Belong on Amazon
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
In a Pakistan village, 12-year-old Amal wants to be a teacher until she accidentally insults a ruling family member and is forced to work for them as punishment. The sequel, Omar Rising, is just as enthralling.
Buy it: Amal Unbound on Amazon
Blackbird Fly by Erin Kelly
Apple, moved to Louisiana from the Phillipines when she was young. Now she has to fit in—between her mom who says she is “too American” and her friends who think she’s weird. Apple looks for solace in music.
Buy it: Blackbird Fly on Amazon
Amina’s Song by Hena Khan
A Pakistani-American middle schooler grapples with becoming more “American” to fit in while trying to get her friends interested in Pakistan. The author creates a warm, relatable protagonist to show how a diverse community comes together.
Buy it: Amina’s Song on Amazon
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
A girl is the only Indian American student in her school and feels pulled between two worlds. When her Amma becomes sick, she’s determined to make her well again. This lyrical novel combines themes of identity, belonging, love, and loss, all set in the 1980s.
Buy it: Red, White, and Whole on Amazon
Meet Yasmin! and Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author. She wrote the chapter book series Yasmin, about a spunky Pakistani American 2nd grader. Her novel Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero takes place in a small town in Texas where Yusuf wants to participate in the regional robotics competition. However, it’s also the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and Yusuf finds himself facing a group protesting a new mosque.
Graphic Novels by Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors
Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab by Priya Huq
This book tells the story of 13-year-old Nisrin, a Bangladeshi American, in 2002. After she wears a hijab to school, she is the victim of a hate crime. In response, she decides to always wear a hijab and learns more about herself and her family.
Buy it: Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab on Amazon
Stargazing by Jen Wang
In this story, opposites attract. Moon and Christine are friends whose friendship is challenged when Moon gets sick. Wang’s writing pulls from her own childhood to tell this story that middle schoolers will connect with.
Buy it: Stargazing on Amazon
Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte
This story is about 12-year-old Cici, who just moved from Taiwan to Seattle. She wants to fit in at school and also celebrate her A-má’s 70th birthday. She enters a cooking competition to try to win enough money to pay for A-má’s plane ticket, but she only knows how to cook Taiwanese food.
Buy it: Measuring Up on Amazon
Parachute Kids by Betty Tang
Feng-Li and her siblings have to start at a new school, learn English, and make friends on their own. Hilarity ensues, while main character Feng-Li also has to figure out how to keep her family together in their new home, California.
Buy it: Parachute Kids on Amazon
Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by Laura Gao
Laura immigrates from Wuhan, China, to Texas. In Texas, Wuhan seems like a distant memory until 2020 and COVID-19. This debut graphic novel and coming-of-age story weaves past and present with humor and insight.
Buy it: Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American on Amazon
Ichiro by Ryan Inzana
Ichiro was raised by a Japanese mother and idolizes his deceased American father. On a trip to Japan, he is left with his grandfather, who becomes a guide to the country. When Ichiro is dragged away to the gods, he starts his personal quest.
Buy it: Ichiro on Amazon
YA Novels by Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors
A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
This story takes place in Awara, where Miuko, an innkeeper’s daughter, lives in a world of gods, monsters, and humans. After she is cursed and starts to turn into a demon, she starts on a quest to undo it.
Buy it: A Thousand Steps Into Night on Amazon
Parachutes by Kelly Yang
This novel tells the story of Claire Wang, a teen dropped off to live and study in the United States (also called a “parachute”). She ends up living with fellow teen Dani de la Cruz. Claire and Dani are opposites and avoid each other until they are forced to work together.
Buy it: Parachutes on Amazon
XOXO by Axie Oh
Jenny is an award-winning cellist who meets Jaewoo, a boy she spends a whirlwind weekend with. She thinks she’ll never see him again but then finds herself in Seoul, South Korea, where Jaewoo is a K-pop star. They’re in love, but will they sacrifice their music careers for each other?
Buy it: XOXO on Amazon
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
This is a collective story of a close group of 14 young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens whose lives were changed by the World War II internment camps. They fight to stay together in a world defined by racism and injustice.
Buy it: We Are Not Free on Amazon
If you liked this list of AAPI books, check out more ways to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month in your classroom.
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