Asian American YA Authors and Protags

How many Asian American YA novels do you have in your classroom library? We recently read Wicked Fox, a new YA urban fantasy by Kat Cho, and we wanted to collect some of our favorite Asian American YA authors and protags to share.

 

Wicked Fox & more: Asian American author spotlight

 

According to a study done by Creative Commons, only 7% of children’s and YA books released in 2018 have characters from Asian backgrounds. This demographic is being hugely underrepresented in publishing, and that’s why today we want to spotlight some #ownvoices stories.

 

Asian American YA Novels for Middle School:

 

 Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen

Pilu of the Woods is a graphic novel following an episode in Willow’s life after the death of her mother. After Willow gets in a fight with her sister, she runs away to the woods to calm down. She meets Pilu, a young tree spirit who feels her mother doesn’t love her. Can the two girls help each other find peace among turmoil? (Elementary/MG)

 

We talked about this book, and the larger topic of trauma-informed teaching with author H.D. Hunter on episode 51 of the podcast.

 

 

 

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This charming graphic novel introduces us to Prince Sebastian, and his trusted friend Frances. Frances is a talented young dressmaker who longs to become famous, but she is forced to keep her identity secret because her client, Lady Crystallia is really Prince Sebastian in disguise! This book explores gender identity, friendship, and loyalty. It’s whimsical drawings and fairytale vibes make this a truly touching read for any age. (Elementary/MS/HS)

 

 

 

This blog uses affiliate links for your convenience.
If you decide to purchase recommended gifts or books, please consider doing so through our affiliate links (at no additional cost to you).
Your support makes our podcast, The YA Cafe, possible.

 

 

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanha Lai

A novel in-verse, Inside Out and Back Again follows ten-year-old Hà as she and her family flee Saigon and arrive in America as refugees. This book is heartfelt and poignant, with astute observations about the world around us. Use this in grades 4-8 to build empathy for immigrants and refugees. Short chapters make this perfect for a read-aloud. (Elementary/MS)

 

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Asian American YA Novels:

 

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen

Viola Li has her life plan figured out—she wants to become a journalist in the most dangerous parts of the world, the opposite of her risk-averse parents. But when she suddenly develops a light sensitivity that leaves her unable to go outside or even sit under a bright light, all her dreams start to seem impossible. Viola has to figure out a way to keep her some control over her life as she struggles to navigate relationships with her parents, sister, and new potential-boyfriend, all while trying to avoid the blistering light that can be dangerous and even lethal.

 

We featured this novel in episode 24 of the podcast, and Justina Chen joined us to chat in episode 57.

 

 

 

Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi

Penny Lee can’t wait to leave her hometown and her high school life behind. She’s headed to college in Austin, TX to persue her dream of becoming a writer. Sam is a barista, who aspires to become a famous movie director. When a freak accident causes them make each other their ‘emergency contact’ in their phones, they strike up a digital relationship. Behind the safety of their screens they share everything from their weaknesses and fears, to their deepest desires and unspoken hopes. Told both in Choi’s witty prose and in excerpts of their text conversation, this story will definitely keep students interested. (HS)

 

 

Are you enjoying our recommendations
of Asian American authors?

Join the YA Cafe Podcast in our weekly chat
about books on Radio Public.

 

 

 

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Jay Reguero, a Filipino-American teenager, has mostly maintained his connection to his family in the Philippines through letters to his cousin, Jun. Or did, before they lost touch a few years ago. Now, Jay is just trying to make it through his senior year before heading to college in the fall. When he gets news that Jun has died, no one will give him any details. Jay wants answers, and he travels to the Philippines to get them. As he learns more about President Duterte’s drug war and the truth about his own cousin, Jay is forced to reckon with a complex reality and his own role in it. (HS)

We featured this in episode 58 of the podcast.

 

 

 

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

At the beginning of Picture Us in the Light, seventeen-year-old Danny receives news that he’s been accepted into the Rhode Island School of Design. To anyone looking on, this seems like great news. Except that Danny has a huge secret – he hasn’t been able to draw in a year. But even as Danny’s struggling to overcome his own artist’s block, some of his parents’ secrets come to light and threaten to topple everything they’ve worked for. Danny must find a way to face the past in order to make room for his future.

For a more in depth look at this novel you can listen to episode 8 of the podcast, or read Danielle’s review.

 

 

 

All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor

In this novel we unravel the story of a group of friends and an author they’re obsessed with. When Miri, Soleil, Penny, and Jonah get a chance to meet the author Fatima Ro, they have to make sure it’s perfect. They have to make sure she notices them. Told in alternating sequences of interviews, text messages, and excerpts from Fatima’s new book, All of This is True gives us a vision of obsession, betrayal, and the blurred line between fiction and reality.

We talked about this book with our friend, author Amanda K. Morgan in episode 13 of the podcast.

 

 

 

YA Fantasy by Asian American authors

 

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

This new urban fantasy by Kat Cho takes place in Seoul and lays the groundwork for a new epic. Miyoung has a secret – she’s a gumiho, a legendary nine-tailed fox that seduces and devours men to feed on their life energy. When she steps in to save a young man from a goblin attack, she risks her own soul in the process. Now, Jihoon has Miyoung’s fox bead – her very essence – and the two must navigate all the treacheries that getting the bead back inside her entails. If your students love mythological creatures in a contemporary setting, this book is definitely for them! It has action, romance, and intrigue. (MS/HS)

 

 

 

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

Esha, the legendary assassin known as the Viper, is on a mission: take down the brutal General Hotha and strike at the heart of the Pretender King’s rule. But when she arrives at the General’s quarters, he’s already dying, and someone has left a fake whip in place to frame Esha. But why? As the General’s tenacious nephew, Kunal, pursues Esha, she must untangle the threads of conspiracy and corruption. And as her connection with the soldier deepens, Esha realizes both their lives are at stake. (HS)

Author Natasha Deen joined us to chat about this book in episode 53 of the podcast.

 

 

 

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Mari’s world is split into two kinds of people—magical creatures and spirits called Yokai, and the humans who oppress and enslave them. Although she is a yokai, Mari has trained her whole life to conquer the four seasons and become the empress, hiding her identity. But leaving her safe mountain town for the capital city has shown her how harsh life truly is for the other yokai, and the prince shows a tenderness that gives her hope for the future. Can Mari conquer the seasons, and if she does, can she betray the prince she’s come to care for? (MG/HS)

We reviewed this book in episode 33 of the podcast.

 

 

Sign up for our YA Reads Newsletter
for more great recommendations
delivered to your inbox!

 

 

 

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

In this introduction to a sweeping fantasy, we meet half-human, half-kitsune Yumeko, who has trained with monks all her life to hide her true nature. When hunters burn down the temple and slaughter her monk family, she flees with their greatest treasure, one part of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. Legend has it that whoever reunites the parts of the scroll will usher in a new era and receive a powerful wish. Kage Tatsumi, a young samurai, is on the hunt for the scroll. When he teams up with Yumeko, he has no idea that his quarry is right under his nose. Will the deception tear them apart or can they work together to set the world back in balance? (HS)

 

 

 

Ash by Malinda Lo

After her father dies, Ash is all alone with her cruel stepmother. In this darkness, she has only one bright spot, reading fairy tales by firelight. She dreams of being whisked away by the fairies, and when Sidhean (a fae) appears, Ash believes him to be her rescuer. While exploring the woods with Sidhean, Ash meets Kaisa, the royal Huntress. As Kaisa and Ash grow closer, Ash finds herself torn between two worlds and confused by her newfound feelings for Kaisa. With lush prose and bewitching imagery, this book is much more than *just* a Cinderella retelling. (HS)

 

 

 

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate. This short story collection is the perfect way to engage students who love folklore and mythology. Even though these stories have classic roots, the storytellers have reimagined the plots and characters. Sometimes, characters are aided by modern technology or the stories have been moved to a new setting (like space!). These are true reimaginings by some of today’s most popular authors. Students will love what they read and inspired to craft their own reimaginings. (MS/HS)

 

 

 

YA Sci-Fi by Asian American authors

 

Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cocha is a seventeen-year-old girl. When Ia gets caught, she is conscripted to join the Commonwealth’s military academy and use her talents as a pilot to work for the very government that destroyed her home. When the young Flight Master Knives is tasked to watch over it, it seems like all her hopes of escape are gone. Infamous for getting out of tricky situations and close calls, will Ia be able to escape her tightest bind yet?

This sci-fi is jam-packed with action! Great choice for students who loved Divergent. (HS)

 

 

Wicked Fox & more: Asian American author spotlight

 

Other Asian American YA Novels?

 

We’d love to add to this list! Let us know your favorite YA novels by Asian American authors and we’ll share them. Keep in touch @nouvelle_ela or @yacafepodcast! We’d love to hear from you!

No Comments

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.