7 books about identity, race by Asian authors for children

Seven inspirational children’s books by Asian authors that touch on self-love, identity, acceptance and more.

For too long, we’ve seen a lack of equitable representation in mainstream media. Not to mention the lack of children’s books by Asian authors.

Most adults are aware of the lack of diversity and can seek out new voices and perspectives. But few are more impacted by the absence of Asian media representation more acutely than children and youth.

At a young age, seeing no reflection of yourself on television, in movies or in books can take a toll. It can affect how children see the world and how they see other ethnic-racial groups. Even how they see themselves. 

Thankfully movies and tv shows like Shang-Chi, Moana, and Never Have I Ever added much needed voices to children’s programming.

However, there are many ways to hear about Asian stories off screen as well. Take these children’s books written by Asian authors.

This list of seven children’s and youth books celebrate the Asian North American experience. Touching ideas of cultural and body acceptance, each book explores the feelings and complexity of North American Asian diaspora in one way or another.

I Am Golden by Eva Chen

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Asian American youth experience lower self-esteem over other ethnic racial groups in the U.S. It’s a troubling trend that best-selling and Chinese American author Eva Chen seeks to fight with I Am Golden. 

This artfully illustrated picture book — to be published in February — tells a story of self-love, encouraging children to embrace their differences as strengths.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lai

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

This multiple award-winning novel tells a poignant, coming-of-age story of a young girl and her family fleeing Saigon during the Vietnam War. 

Based on the personal experiences of author Thanhhà Lai, the novel delves deeply into the diaspora, pain, fear, and eventual healing that many Asian immigrants face when their families emigrate to North America. Youth preparing or struggling with change can find comfort in this funny but kind novel. 

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Immigrating to a new place is difficult enough. But having a Korean name that stands out can lead to complex feelings around acceptance and belonging. Parents and children alike can relate to the anxiety over whether your name will set you apart in the worst way. Whether it means being ostracized.

In the world of children’s books written by Asian authors, This sweet picture book will be a comfort for children starting at a new school or in a new setting. The lessons served in this illustrated tale touch on acceptance and love — both for others and one’s self.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Asians who have been in North America since birth or since early childhood sometimes struggle with connecting with their heritage, particularly if their parents were unwilling to talk about their homeland.

In this award-winning graphic novel by Indian American Ndihi Chanani, a young girl takes on a journey of self-discovery, learning to straddle two cultures and two worlds as she explores her family’s history. 

The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Body image and beauty standards can be contentious topics in Asian cultures. Beauty ideals can be quite limited, and research shows that Asian American women have higher rates of disordered eating than other women of colour.

This lovely picture book aims to counteract those trends. Through a story about a young girl who visits a bath house with her family, this book celebrates Japanese cultural traditions and body positivity.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

There is a long history of Asians in North America being singled out for our eye shape. Some even turn to eyelid tape or surgery to change this appearance and achieve a European look.

This lyrical picture book tells a story of self-acceptance and self-love, while celebrating heritage, culture and family.

Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Anyone who’s ever watched a Twitch stream can tell you how toxic the gaming community can be — especially to women and people of colour. This novel explores gaming culture from the perspective of a young Chinese-American girl gamer who faces these issues head on. 

This novel serves as both a cautionary tale for those who game as well as an uplifting message about chasing your dreams.

Featured photo credit: Jerry Wang

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