May 28, 2022

AAPI Media

 To commemorate AAPI month - that is, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I thought I’d provide a list of some of my favorite types of media with Asian main characters/cast to continue to celebrate these people all year long. 


Movies:


Big Hero Six:

This animated Disney movie encompasses both the action of a superhero movie with the emotional yet fun atmosphere Disney is known for. Taking place in fictional San Fransokyo, this movie stars an Asian lead and a diverse group of sidekicks. 



Wish Dragon:

This animated movie, found on Netflix, combines both Romeo and Juliet with the magic of Aladdin. Featuring an all Asian cast, this movie is a great way to enjoy a classic storyline while simultaneously widening ourselves to POC leads. 



Raya and the Last Dragon:

This newer Disney movie boasts a super-diverse cast of Asian characters, with its storyline paralleling the deep, complicated histories between different groups within the nation of China. Additionally, this movie has gorgeous animation. 



Mulan:

Though there is both a live action and a sequel, I always go back to the original Disney tale of Mulan. Following a farm girl turned warrior, Mulan explores loyalty and family duty as she trains to protect China.




Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 

A Marvel movie for the older crowd, this movie features an almost all Asian cast and deeply celebrates Asian culture throughout the story of Shaun (Shang Chi) as he protects his late mother’s village from his disillusioned father.  



Children’s books:


Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho:

This sweet children’s book filled with vivid illustrations and an important message, explores a girl and her relationship with her almond shaped eyes. 




Shaoey and Dot by Mary Beth Chapman:

Actually made into a series, Shaoey and Dot follows an orphan and her ladybug friend as Shaoey gets adopted and adjusts to her new home. 




The White Swan Express by Jean Davies Okimoto:
Following the adoption stories of multiple families in Guangzhou’s most famed hotel, this sweet book honors the adoption stories the hotel has come to be a part of. 



Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett:

Paired with gorgeous illustrations, this book follows Mei Mei, a young Chinese girl who raises chickens. When Daisy, one of the chickens, gets separated, Mei Mei does all she can to get her chicken back. 



The Red Thread by Grace Lin:

Based on an Asian version of soulmates, red threads connect those destined to be together regardless of distance. In this story, a happy royal couple face perils as they attempt to find who is on the other end of their thread. 



I Love You Like Crazy Cakes:

Exploring an adoption story through the adoptive mother’s eyes, this sweet book illustrates the deep, maternal love experienced during the adoption process. 




The Newest Flower by Juliese Padgett:

If we’re being technical, the birch trees in this book suggest this book takes place in North America. But as the author, I argue that since Calli is an Asian-coded character, (and a real flower hailing from Asia!) this book belongs on the list. Perfect for this month, this short story transports readers to a flower oasis and teaches a message of love important for every month of the year. 


YA Books:



American Girl: Good Luck Ivy

It has been years since I’ve picked up an American Girl book, but what I appreciate about the brand is the dedication to their dolls’ stories. Ivy’s story focuses on balancing her Chinese household and the changing climates of San Francisco. 


Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed:

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal lives a poor but cheerful life in her village in Pakistan. But when she says the wrong thing to the richest man in the village, she finds herself forced into indentured servitude. With the house staff, she must find a way to prosper even under his harsh expectations and encompassing presence. (Additional notes)



Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth

Gopal, in an attempt to help provide for his family, takes a job that brings him to the top floor of an old building complex where with 5 other boys, he is required to make frames all day. Unable to contact the outside world, the boys can’t tell each other their names but find refuge in their shared stories. (Additional Notes)




Front Desk by Kelly Yang

A story about an immigrating Chinese family, the Tang’s are given the opportunity to run a motel and Mia Tang is convinced that once her family gets on their feet, they’ll live the American dream. Except, pretty quickly she learns that the motel owner, even though he’s Asian like them, doesn’t want them to succeed and it’s up to Mia to stand up for what she believes in and not to limit her dreams to society’s expectations. (Additional Notes)


Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Hanna, the daughter of a pioneer, struggles to fit into all the towns she’s moved to due to being half-Asian. Along with her dreams of getting an education and opening a dress shop, Hanna faces significant challenges with bravery that challenge the prejudice of her new town. (Additional Notes)


April 20, 2022

Regardless of Ethnicity: A Message of Mindfulness

As the goal towards racial justice becomes more and more mainstream, I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate several discussions regarding racial reconciliation. Due to my inner circle consisting mostly of Caucasians, my perspectives sometimes come as a surprise to my white counterparts. There’s beauty in my perspective - these people will never be able to experience life through the eyes of an Asian American adoptee and hopefully, my viewpoint allows a glimpse into a wider racial climate than they were previously aware of. 

And as I’ve gotten to have these hard discussions, I've also had the honor of getting a glimpse at their unique perspectives on the subject of racial reconciliation. Because even if this society holds biases in a white person’s favor, being a white American is a culture of its own and I value learning from an inside perspective. 


When offered this intimate glance, I found myself discovering deep resistance to these conversations - resistance that stemmed from deep hurts. As I got more and more chances to listen, the more this hurt became visible to me.

Pain like this - I recognized it - and the root of it horrified me. These people have faced verbal attacks that have left them ashamed of being white


If this doesn’t scare you, it should


This is the same racism that’s plagued our narrative for centuries. History wails with the pain that occurs when we reduce and assume people’s value based on their skin tone. And even if discrimination changes its appearance, it is never justifiable and causes immeasurable damage and hurt. 


Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that I do not take lightly the pain specific to POCs that unfortunately, is a part of our cultural narrative. The lack of value placed on a human’s life due to ethnicity is never acceptable and it needs to be acknowledged that certain categories of people groups are more brutally attacked for simple physical attributes. Furthermore, it is essential that our growth as a culture is to acknowledge and work to eradicate acts of racism. But as we emerge ready for social change, we must acknowledge that some means can cause hurt. In our drive, have we villainized white people for sins they themselves have not committed? Is that not an act of discrimmination? My friends, the goal of racial reconciliation is to address and heal pain, not to exchange it. 


That being said, in order to avoid attacking others during our racial discussions, we must change our approaches to such conversations. If we point fingers, if we accuse people of their ancestor’s actions without on the other hand pointing out the growth they are able to cultivate, we lose our platform. Accusations we level on the white party today, they only serve as reasons for them to construct walls and maintain limited racial perspectives. When we point fingers, villainize people groups, we lose the opportunity to help guide someone to a wider, more inclusive racial worldview. 


Racism has stirred deep pains in our stories, regardless of if we are black, white, or somewhere in between. In order to heal, we must be able to express this pain and treat the source, but please, please, ensure before these conversations occur that this pain does not drive us to drag down certain people groups to the level we feel we’ve been put on. Instead, we must be able to constructively express our pain in a way that seeks to be understood. From here, we can express our desire to see true equity - where all people are held to the same standards having already begun on the same level.


My friends, there is so much potential beauty and growth in the hard subject of racial reconciliation. But as we pursue these conversations, it is essential that we work to end discrimination, not transfer it. By recognizing the hurt each of us carry regardless of our ethnicities and embracing our different perspectives, we cultivate a safe environment to mutually expand our racial worldviews.

February 28, 2022

Clingy

My parents were correct when they told me that in five years my sixth grade experience wouldn’t be that big of a deal. In fact, there’s not many things I actually remember from the experience except that I’m extremely grateful it’s over. However, if there is one thing I remember about sixth grade it was an ultra-specific comment that for years wounded me and influenced the way I handled relationships. 

It was simple really, just a mere comment. “Sometimes you can be really clingy.”


This remark perhaps wouldn’t have had such a traumatizing effect on me if the person involved hadn’t promptly ended our friendship, but sadly, that was the context and for several years, this small comment grew into a larger wound. Why did this small remark, made by someone no longer in my life, have such power over me? 


The power came from the fact that this truth opened up wounds that stretched all the way back to China and my initial abandonment. The power came from the fact that even though the delivery was poorly timed, the statement was true.


In fact, looking back, I would go as far as to take out the word sometimes. Though I didn’t mean to, my constant presence easily could have been unnerving and veered towards toxic. To this day, when I feel comfortable with someone, I tend to gravitate towards them, and in many situations I can even crowd them a bit. This so-called clinginess stems from losing so many people so early on and experiencing so much instability so early; I tend to stay close to those I’m comfortable with because I’m afraid they might leave me and with them, take away my sense of safety. 


For years this comment negatively affected the way I handled relationships, oftentimes negatively. Because I lost my friend right after this comment, I linked being clingy with people abandoning me and such a conclusion caused me to play push and pull in relationships. If I’d spent time with friends I’d scare myself silly that night that I had been too clingy and try to pull back next time. Hanging out would cause me to evaluate and reevaluate my actions so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had in my broken friendship. And in doing this, I nourished the lie and only grew the wound. 


I’d like to be able to say that five years later, I have been completely healed and this comment has no power anymore. Part of that is true - the remark no longer feels like a stab to the chest, but I cannot honestly say I’m completely healed. Sometimes I still worry I’m hovering too close to those I love and push and pull with how much to give at a certain point. But I’ve come to realize that where my old friend saw clingy I saw as loyalty. 


If there was a single quality I had to choose in a person, I would choose being loyal. To me, loyalty is not the constant presence of someone, though it can be shown that way. My definition of loyal is knowing that someone chooses to stand beside those they love over and over again, regardless of convenience. Sadly, in some of my relationships, not a lot of people were able to recognize that loyalty was the way I said “I love you.” Part of this might be because in recent years, the value of loyalty has declined in society. Another reason this might have been hard for others to understand is because usually, this type of devotion is sought exclusively in romantic relationships and rarer in platonic ones. However, I have come to see that those who love me understand that my intense loyalty is how I express love and that I am still working through the holes trauma has caused.  


As I continue to create and nourish relationships, I’m not going to pretend that this quote might not come up and scare me. In fact, in future relationships, this may affect the way I interact. However, as I pursue new relationships, I am learning that other’s perceptions of loyalty and mine might not be equivalent, and that’s okay! I have trust that God is gonna put people in my path who are able to understand that my attachment is an expression of love and appreciate me for this truth.


January 18, 2022

Diverse Books

    In my opinion, any place surrounded by story books is one of the safest, most wonderful places on earth. Perhaps it is because books of fiction serve as an escape from reality, to fallen kingdoms, space travel, and worlds our wandering hearts long to go. More than that, books offer readers the companions, heroes, and characters that become our ideals, our inspirations, and sometimes, a part of who we are. 

    But for a small Chinese girl, as much as I adored some of these characters, there was a lack of characters who looked like me. Sure I could strive to have the patience, grace, and empathy that Sara Crewe personifies, but I wanted a character who I could look in the mirror and see myself in. For me, I wanted to read about an Asian heroine. 


    This is why I am proud and excited to say that with the growing racial discussions, there has been a deliberate demand for the voices and stories of authors of every ethnicity. Now, as I explore the YA section of my library, I smile, because I know that we are offering children even more characters to see themselves in, we are giving them characters who not only overcome, but who understand them, who look in the mirror and have faces that reflect our own. 


    As a disclaimer, though I am pleased to see many books featuring POC’s emerge, it is equally important to raise awareness of the struggles that aren’t limited to skin tone, so this list compiles YA books featuring characters of various ethnicities and backgrounds, that I have personally read and recommend. 


*Regarding Content Warnings: It may be beneficial to search up these books in sites such as The Story Graph and review what content warnings are included to reflect if it is a book suitable for you personally.*



A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story: Park, Linda Sue:  9780547577319: Amazon.com: Books

A Long Walk to Water

Following two separate stories in Uganda and Sudan, Nya and Salva both take long walks for survival - Nya for water from a dirty watering hole, and Salva to a refugee camp in the wake of violence. In two different times and places, their shared search of water connects them. 



Content Warnings*

Death

Brutality


Amal Unbound: Saeed, Aisha: 9780399544682: Amazon.com: BooksAmal Unbound

Amal lives a poor but cheerful life in her village in Pakistan. But when she says the wrong thing to the richest man in the village, she finds herself forced into indentured servitude. With the house staff, she must find a way to prosper even under his harsh expectations and encompassing presence. 



Note: Though this book handles indentured servitude, it does so in a way appropriate to middle schoolers. Other than the endless work the “staff” is subjected to, Saeed, the author, does not explore other aspects of indentured servitude, providing a safe understanding of servitude without many of the intense horrors that can accompany this human abuse. 


Content Warnings*:

Child Slavery

Indentured Servitude

Mentions of Murder


Boys without Names: Sheth, Kashmira: 9780061857621: Amazon.com: BooksBoys Without Names

Gopal, in an attempt to help provide for his family, takes a job that brings him to the top floor of an old building complex where with 5 other boys, he is required to make frames all day. Unable to contact the outside world, the boys can’t tell each other their names but find refuge in their shared stories. 



Note: I was unable to find the complete list of content warnings, so please heed with caution. 


Content Warning*

Child slavery

Kidnapping


The Bronze Bow: Speare, Elizabeth George: 0046442137195: Amazon.com: BooksThe Bronze Bow: 

After seeing the Romans brutally killing his father, Daniel is determined to destroy the Roman Empire and joins a rebellious group with high hopes and questionable ways to achieve their goals. 




Notes: It’s been years since I read this book and I couldn’t find the content warnings easily. So please heed with caution. It takes place in first-century Galilee in the time of the Roman Empire, so some amount of stereotypical Roman brutality is featured. 


Content Warnings*:
Death

Brutality



Brown Girl Dreaming: Woodson, Jacqueline: 9780147515827: Amazon.com: BooksBrown Girl Dreaming:

Written through a series of poems, Jacqueline Woodson, the author, tells her story of growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s-70s. Receiving several accolades, this book is a work of quiet magnitude. 




Content Warnings*:

Death
Racism

Brutality

References to Slavery


Esperanza Rising (Scholastic Gold): Ryan, Pam Muñoz: 9780439120425:  Amazon.com: BooksEsperanza Rising:

Living a privileged life in Mexico, Esperanza is thrust into a whole new world when she flees with her mother to California’s labor camps. She is unprepared for the hard work and the resilience required to live in the Great Depression’s strenuous days, where being Mexican is not a thing of pride but a setback. 



Content Warnings*:

Death

Racism


Fish in a Tree: Mullaly Hunt, Lynda: 9780142426425: Amazon.com: BooksFish in a Tree

Though this book’s lead, Ally, is not of a different ethnicity, her story is equally important to the world of middle grade literature. Struggling to hide her dyslexia, Ally has fooled her teachers into thinking that she’s never going to make it. Except, her newest teacher sees something in her that even Ally can’t - and is willing to help her get to that point. 



Note: I had my mom, a dyslexia specialist, read this book, and she apparently enjoyed it. Though this book lacks a POC lead, it is equally important to raise awareness of the struggles that aren’t limited to skin tone. 


Front Desk: Yang, Kelly: 9781338157796: Amazon.com: BooksFront Desk:

A story about an immigrating Chinese family, the Tang’s are given the opportunity to run a motel and Mia Tang is convinced that once her family gets on their feet, they’ll live the American dream. Except, pretty quickly she learns that the motel owner, even though he’s Asian like them, doesn’t want them to succeed and it’s up to Mia to stand up for what she believes in and not to limit her dreams to society’s expectations. 


Note: This book is the first of a series, a series I have yet to fully read. However, I really enjoyed this first book and hope that the series continues to explore more Mia’s story as an Asian-American. 


Content Warnings*:

Racism

Xenophobia

Brutality


Amazon.com: The Golden Goblet (Newbery Library, Puffin): 9780140303353:  McGraw, Eloise Jarvis: BooksThe Golden Goblet:

Taking place in Ancient Egypt, Ranofer is a porter at his local goldsmith shop and apprentice later at a stonecutter’s. This mystery book takes a deeper dive into the everyday life and culture of Ancient Egypt.  




Content Warnings*

Child Abuse (an abusive brother)


Genesis Begins Again: Williams, Alicia D.: 9781481465816: Amazon.com: BooksGenesis Begins Again:

Genesis has a lot she doesn’t like about herself - her name, being one factor, her skin tone (why couldn’t she just be light like her mother?) and the fact that she never knows when they might be evicted from their current home. With a dad that struggles with alcoholism, her mom’s critique at everything she seems to do, Genesis hardly believes her new choir teacher that tells her she has talent. But Genesis needs a new beginning and maybe it’s right around the corner.


Note: This book is not meant to be a comfortable read. It’s about a girl who hates her skin color and uses bleaches and expensive creams to lighten her skin. She has a list of things she hates about herself and is nearing #100. It handles internalized racism heavily, and I suggest this for older readers or to be read as a group to cultivate healthy reflections. 


Content Warnings*:

Alcoholism

Body shaming

Racism


Heat: Lupica, Mike: 9780142407578: Amazon.com: BooksHeat:

Michael has a seriously amazing pitching arm - notable enough to earn him a position in the Little League World Series. However, he’s hiding the fact that he and his 17 year old brother are living alone and that he doesn’t have the proper papers to participate. Except, as he fights for a place on the competitive team, he learns family can be found in unexpected corners.


Content Warnings*:

Illegal Immigration



The Length of a String: Weissman, Elissa Brent: 9780735229471: Amazon.com:  BooksThe Length of a String:
I have previously reviewed this book, and once again recommend it. This tale follows Imanni’s story about standing out in a Caucasian culture and her desire to know her adoption story. This book has one of the most unique plotlines that drives the story toward a rewarding ending. 



Note: This would be my first pick if I were suggesting a book to a transracial adoptees, it’s a valuable resource for discussion


Content Warnings*: 

Anti-Semitism


Amazon.com: Mara, Daughter of the Nile: 9780140319293: McGraw, Eloise  Jarvis: BooksMara, Daughter of the Nile:

Written by the same author as The Golden Goblet, Mara is a young beautiful blue-eyed servant in Ancient Egypt who is sold to the pharaoh’s henchmen. With carefully arranged plans, Mara finds herself becoming a double agent and falling in love with someone with the power to expose her true nature. 




Content Warnings*: 

Slavery

Whipping


Amazon.com: Other Words for Home: 9780062747808: Warga, Jasmine: BooksOther Words for Home:

When her home in Syria becomes dangerous, Jude travels with her mother to Connecticut with her mom seeking safety. In America Jude faces prejudice and major cultural shifts all while she must learn new customs and learn who she truly is. 




Note: As a Christian, I cannot stand by Islam laws, which oppose what I believe. While this book does not delve into Islam law, it is an aspect that affects the characters. However, I feel that it is important to read other’s stories to widen our worldviews and realize that even though I disagree with a certain lifestyle, it does not permit hostility and discrimination. 


Content Warnings*: 

Islamophobia
Racism

Xenophobia


One for the Murphys: Mullaly Hunt, Lynda: 8601411174858: Amazon.com: BooksOne for the Murphy’s:

Carley doesn't want to be with the Murphy’s - she doesn’t want the foster family’s sympathy and she sure doesn't need their support. But as she is implemented into their crazy yet loving family, Carley discovers what family should feel like and what she wants. 




Content Warnings*:

Alcoholism

Domestic Violence


Out of My Mind: Draper, Sharon M.: 8601200543971: Amazon.com: BooksOut of My Mind:

Melody is unique. Not because of a certain talent, but because of what she can’t do - walk, talk, and write. Held back by cerebral palsy, she is unable to express all that she observes, all that her photographic memory retains, and she’s the smartest in any room but she doesn't have the ability to show it. Until of course, she’s given a computer tailored to her needs. Suddenly, she’s got an outlet and the dictionary is her only limit. 


Note: I read this book for a reading group in 4th grade. Even to this day, I remember how it drastically affected my perspective. When I talk about diversity, I don’t just mean POC’s. Discussions regarding race are important, but literary diversity means that any child can see themselves in a character or learns empathy through the characters. This book is so important to YA literature as it addresses the taboo subject of disabilities and humanizes those society so easily disregards. 


Content Warnings*:

Ableism


Prairie Lotus: Park, Linda Sue: 9781328781505: Amazon.com: BooksPrairie Lotus:

Hanna, the daughter of a pioneer, struggles to fit into all the towns she’s moved to due to being half-Asian. Along with her dreams of getting an education and opening a dress shop, Hanna faces significant challenges with bravery that challenge the prejudice of her new town. 



Note: As listed in the content warnings, this book does feature a scene of assault. It is not graphic and the book is still appropriate for an adolescents, but the actions would definitely be considered sexual assault to a minor. Unfortunately, in the context provided, this type of assault would be conceivable. In no way is this book or recommendation meant to normalize or support these actions. If this is something that concerns you, please review the book further for your own comfort.


Content Warnings*

Non-Graphic Assault

Xenophobia

Racism



Stella by Starlight: Draper, Sharon M.: 9781442494985: Amazon.com: BooksStella By Starlight:

Stella lives in the Deep South - South Carolina to be exact - where she often experiences segregation. At this point, as an African American girl, she’s used to it. But when she’s exploring late at night she stumbles upon a meeting that threatens her entire community. 



Content Warnings*

Ku Klux Klan
Racism



Amazon.com: Under the Broken Sky: 9781250159212: Nagai, Mariko: BooksUnder the Broken Sky:

Exploring the effects of WWII on the Japanese, this book, written in poetry, follows two sisters who are forced to evacuate their home and Natsu, the oldest, must make hard decisions in order to ensure the safety of her little sister. 




Note: I personally thought this book’s summary was misleading - most of the action took place at the last 100 pages. 


Content Warnings*

Death

Brutality


When Stars Are Scattered: Jamieson, Victoria, Mohamed, Omar, Jamieson,  Victoria, Geddy, Iman: 9780525553908: Amazon.com: BooksWhen Stars are Scattered:

This stunning graphic novel tells the story of Omar and his brother Hassan, who struggles intellectually. Together they have been living as orphans in a refugee camp, waiting for a day to come when they can leave. This book, based on a true story, will challenge empathy and our definitions of what family and hope mean. 



Note: As a Christian, I cannot stand by Islam laws, which oppose what I believe. While this book does not delve into Islam law, it is an aspect that affects the characters. However, I feel that it is important to read other’s stories to widen our worldviews and realize that even though I disagree with a certain lifestyle, it does not permit hostility and discrimination. 


Content Warnings*:

Ableism

Arranged marriage 


This list is incomplete and will be updated as I continue to widen my reading horizons. 


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