AANHPI Heritage Month Recommended Reading: Clifton Public Library List for Young Readers
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (“AANHPI”) Heritage Month. The month of May was chosen for several reasons, including to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, where the majority of workers (upwards of 20,000) who laid those railroad tracks were Chinese immigrants.
To honor their contributions, and the contributions of so many other Asians to the United States, the U.S. Congress (spearheaded by Representative Frank Horton of New York and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawai'i) chose the first ten days of May to commemorate the history and contributions of Asian American communities in 1977. President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution for the celebration on Oct. 5, 1978. The observance was extended to a month by President George H.W. Bush. Since then, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of May as “AANHPI Heritage Month.” These proclamations celebrate the rich diversity of AANHPI communities in the United States and the contributions AANHPI have made to the United States over the course of American history in a variety of fields, from sports to science, from politics to literature. The Federal Asian Pacific American Council has declared that the theme of this year’s celebration is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunities.”
The 2023 Presidential Proclamation declaring this May as AANHPI states that “During Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Nation celebrates the diversity of cultures, breadth of achievement, and remarkable contributions of these communities; of brave immigrants who, motivated by the promise of possibilities, picked up their lives and found new homes here; of native peoples who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial; and of community leaders shaping a brighter future for us all. Throughout our history, they have represented the bigger story of who we are as Americans and embodied the truth that our diversity is our strength as a Nation.”
The Clifton Main Memorial Library has curated an AANHPI Heritage Month reading list for The Clifton Times, which features a wide range of books recommended for young readers, selected by Children’s Department Supervising Librarian Gloria Abero. We have included a link to each book’s publisher with a brief summary from the publishers’ websites. You can stop by the Clifton Main Memorial Library to see their display and stop by either the Main Memorial Library or the Allwood Branch to pick up one of these titles. Patrons can also place holds on any of these books through PALS Plus. Please note: some of these titles are available at only the Main Library or Allwood Branch, and some are available at both.
Eyes That Kiss In The Corners - Joanna Ho. This beautiful picture book tells a story about learning to love and celebrate your Asian eyes. A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. Where theirs are big, round eyes with long lashes, she realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
Cora Cooks Pancit - Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young. The story of Cora cooking pancit, her favorite noodle dish, with her mother, delightfully captures the warmth between mother and daughter as they share a piece of their Filipino heritage.
Friends Are Friends, Forever - Dane Liu. This picture book is based on the author’s own immigration story. On a snowy Lunar New Year’s Eve in Northeastern China, it’s Dandan’s last night with Yueyue, before she moves to America. The two best friends share a wintertime tradition: crafting paper snowflakes, freezing them, and hanging them as ornaments. As they say goodbye, Yueyue presses red paper and a spool of thread into Dandan’s hands so that she can carry on their tradition in her new home. But Dandan has no one to enjoy the gift with—until a friend comes along.
The Most Beautiful Thing - Kao Kalia Yang. 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.When Kalia decides she wants braces to improve her smile, her grandmother, a woman who has just one tooth in her mouth, helps her see that beauty is found with those we love most. 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.
Ohana Means Family - Ilima Loomis. Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text and beautiful illustrations to showcase the beauty of Hawai’i. “This is the land that’s never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana’s luau.”
Bilal Cooks Daal - Aisha Saeed. Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his father make daal, his favorite food, so he can introduce it to his friends, who have never tried it. The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. Bilal begins to wonder if his friends will enjoy his favorite food as much as he does.
Paper Son: The Inspiring Story Of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant, And Artist - Julie Leung. Before Tyrus Wong became an artist, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled from China to America with only a suitcase and his immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles, supporting himself by working as a janitor. After his training, using soft watercolors and sparse brush lines, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi.
Shark Lady - Jess Keating. Jess Keating’s book was listed as one of the New York Times’ Top Twelve Books for Feminist Boys and Girls. It spotlights the life of Eugenie Clark who fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn't imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people were afraid of sharks and didn't think women should be scientists. Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks, earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to.
Surfer Of The Century: The Life Of Duke Kahanamoku - Ellie Crowe. Duke Kahanamoku grew up in Hawai’i, learning to swim and surf at a young age. By his early twenties, Duke's lightning-fast swimming won him a place on the 1912 United States Olympic team and a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle race. Over the years Duke struggled with racism and financial troubles, but by the end of his twenty-year Olympic career, he was a six-time medal winner.
Although he was a swimming champion, Duke's passion was surfing. He traveled the world, introducing surfboarding to Australia and the east and west coasts of the United States. He is considered the father of modern surfing and remains a legendary waterman and an inspiration to all to live life with aloha, which means love, kindness, grace, affection, compassion, and is also a traditional Hawaiian greeting or farewell.
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance - Lisa Yee. Twelve-year-old Maizy discovers her family’s Chinese restaurant is full of secrets in this irresistible novel that celebrates food, fortune, and family.
Stand up, Yumi Chung! -Jessica Kim. Yumi Chung is supposed to be preparing for a private school scholarship when she stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura–and Yumi doesn’t correct them. As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.
If you know of other wonderful books for children that celebrate AANHPI contributions, spotlight AANHPI people, or share pieces of their culture, please leave their titles and authors as a comment here for others to see.