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    Asian Identity Reading List

    Exploring Asian & Asian American Identity | Recommended Reading List

    Arkansas NCTA presents "Exploring Asian and Asian American Identity" a recommended reading list for K-12 teachers. For more resource recommendations, check out our Resource Center.

    the star festival

    The Star Festival by Moni Ritchie Hadley, illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa

    Recommended Grade Levels: PreK-2

    Keywords: Childhood, Japan, Holidays, Multigenerational Family

    Dressed in her traditional kimono, Keito, her mom and Oba join the local Star Festival which commemorates a mythological couple separated by the Milky Way. This vibrantly illustrated story weaves in a popular folktale while telling the story of a multigenerational adventure and love at the festival.  

    Recommended teaching activities: The teacher may use the Skyview app to project the Milky Way and the Orihime and Hikoboshi stars on a screen while reading the book. The class could also do some additional research on the Star Festival and draw pictures of the Milky Way, the two stars, and write one thing they learned about the festival. 

    the most beautiful thing

    The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le

    Recommended Grade Levels: K-3

    Keywords: Childhood, Biography, Hmong Identity, Multicultural

    Drawing from her own early childhood experiences, Yang depicts a Hmong refugee family that had little money but plenty of love after they moved to the US. This beautifully written and illustrated book, set in the jungles of Laos and the United States, combines the heartwarming stories of two generations. Grandma's smile is the most beautiful thing. 

    Recommended teaching activities: After reading the story, the teacher may project a Google map on the screen and ask students to find Laos and Minnesota on the map. The teacher may also ask students to share and write one thing they enjoy doing with their grandparents. Younger students can also draw a picture of themselves with their grandparents. 

    The Name Jar

    The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

    Recommended Grade Levels: K-3

    Keywords: Childhood, Fiction, New Experiences, Korean Identity

    Being a new kid in the school with a Korean name that is difficult to pronounce, Unhei struggles between picking an American name from her classmates’ suggestions collected in a jar and keeping her name that has rich cultural meanings. With the help of a store-owner, her classmates finally learn how to pronounce her name correctly. It is a great book to teach students to be proud of their own identity and cultural heritage, diversity, and self-acceptance. . 

    Recommended teaching activities: The teacher may project a Google map and ask students to find South Korea and its capital city on the map. The teacher may also build home connections by having students ask their parents/guardians what their names mean and share with the class. Students could then write about their name and why it is important to them. 

    the runaway wok

    The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Sebastia Serra

    Recommended Grade Levels: K-3

    Keywords: China, Fairy Tales, Holidays, Picture Book

    When Ming is sent to the market to trade eggs for rice to cook the New Year’s meal but comes home with an old singing wok instead, his parents wonder what they'll eat for dinner. Then the wok rolls out of the poor family's house with a skippity-hoppity-ho! and returns from the richest man's home brimming with lots of delicious food, toys and money in tow! This is a very cute Chinese New Year story with lively illustrations and ear-pleasing rhyming words for young readers to follow and read along to learn about kindness, sharing, and generosity.

    Recommended teaching activities: The teacher may project a Google map on the screen and ask students to find China and its capital city. The teacher may seek local resources and decorate the classroom, invite a speaker to talk about the Chinese New Year and have students research the traditions about the Chinese New Year.


    Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young

    Recommended Grade Levels: K-3

    Keywords: Childhood, Japan, Natural Disaster, Picture Book

    The villagers were celebrating the harvest festival on the beach while an earthquake happened. At the top of the hill, Ojiisan (grandfather) saw the ocean moving away and knew what was coming next. How would he and his grandson Tada warn the 400 villagers down by the shore that a Tsunami was coming? This is a wonderful story about self-sacrifice that every reader will enjoy reading!

    Recommended teaching activities: The teacher may project a Google map on the screen and ask students to find Japan and its capital city. The teacher may also orally tell the first part of the story and ask the students to predict what Ojiison and grandson would do to save the villagers on the beach. Then the class will read and verify their predictions.

    Inside Out and Back Again: Lai, Thanhhà: 9780061962790: Amazon.com: Books

    Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lai

    Recommended Grade Levels: 3-7

    Keywords: Vietnamese American, Immigrant Experiences, Southern America, Historical Fiction

    Lesson Plan: Inside Out & Back Again Novel Study

    Inside Out & Back Again is about a young Vietnamese girl who immigrates to Alabama amidst the fall of Saigon. Use this book in your classroom to teach about wartime Asian immigration to the rural South. 

    Confucius Great Teacher of ChinaConfucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi

    Recommended Grade Levels: 4-6

    Keywords: Philosophy, China, Biography, Picture Book

    This informational book about Confucius, tells the life story of the most fundamental Chinese philosopher. 

    Recommended teaching activities: The teacher may involve students in doing research on the time period when Confucius lived and select some Confucian quotes for students to discuss, then write an opinion essay to support or refute the ideas.

    Tsunami Girl : Sedgwick, Julian, Kusuwada, Chie: Amazon.nl: BoekenTsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada 

    Recommended Grade Levels: 5-12

    Keywords: Coming-of-age, Japan, Manga, Tsunami & Disaster

    Lesson Plan: Tsunami Girl Activity Packet

    Tsunami Girl is about a British Japanese girl who navigates survival in Japan after the March 2011 natural disasters. As this book uses an innovative mix of manga and prose, it is accessible to middle grade students.

    Amazon.com: The Magic Fish: (A Graphic Novel): 9781984851598: Nguyen, Trung  Le: BooksThe Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

    Recommended Grade Levels: 7-9

    Keywords: Vietnamese American, Queer Identity, Graphic Novel, Fairy Tales

    Lesson Plan: The Magic Fish | TeachingBooks Guide

    The Magic Fish is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel about a young, queer Vietnamese American who learns to communicate with his immigrant parents through fairy tales, a method that enables him to navigate complex issues such as identity. This book is perfect for teaching Vietnamese American identity.

    Amazon.com: Banned Book Club: 9781945820427: Sook, Kim Hyun, Estrada, Ryan,  Ko, Hyung-Ju: Books

    Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada, illustrated by Hyung-ju Ko 

    Recommended Grade Levels: 7-9

    Keywords: Student Activism, South Korea, Graphic Novel, Chaos & Hope

    Lesson Plan: Banned Book Club | TeachingBooks Guide

    Banned Book Club is about a girl growing up in South Korea during a period of authoritarianism and fights in her own way through the power of reading. This graphic novel explores history through vivid images and is accessible and exciting for middle grades.

    Amazon.com: The War Outside eBook : Hesse, Monica: Kindle StoreThe War Outside by Monica Hesse

    Recommended Grade Levels: 7-12

    Keywords: Japanese American Internment, World War II, Friendship, Betrayal

    Lesson Plan: The War Outside | TeachingBooks Guide

    The War Outside is about two girls—one Japanese American and the other German American—who meet in an internment camp during World War II, forming a bond amidst the struggles of war and imprisonment. As Japanese American internment was a large part of Arkansas's involvement in World War II, this book is relevant for US History or English classes.

    Amazon.com: The Astonishing Color of After: 9780316463997: Pan, Emily X.R.:  BooksThe Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan 

    Recommended Grade Levels: 7-12

    Keywords: Taiwan, Magical Realism, Grief, Young Adult Literature

    Lesson Plan: The Astonishing Color of After | TeachingBooks Guide

    The Astonishing Color of After follows the vivid imagination of a Taiwanese American girl who navigates grief and acceptance after her mother's suicide. The masterful usage of literary devices in this novel are perfect for high school English classrooms and the book's inclusion of Taiwan is relevant to representing modern Asia.

    Amazon.com: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings: 9780062671158: Oh, Ellen,  Chapman, Elsie, Ahdieh, Renée, Charaipotra, Sona, Chhibber, Preeti,  Chokshi, Roshani, de Bodard, Aliette, de la Cruz, Melissa, Kagawa, Julie,  Kanakia, Rahul, Lee, LoriA Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman 

    Recommended Grade Levels: 8-9

    Keywords: East Asia, South Asia, Folklore & Mythology, Teen & Young Adult Fairy Tale Anthology

    Lesson Plan: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings | TeachingBooks Guide

    A Thousand Beginnings and Endings explores East and South Asian folklore, including exciting tales of star-crossed lovers and immortals. This compilation is effectively a cultural survey and the language utilized makes it accessible to junior high readers.

    Amazon.com: This Time Will Be Different: 9780062473448: Sugiura, Misa: BooksThis Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura 

    Recommended Grade Levels: 8-12

    Keywords: Japanese American Internment, Prejudice & Racism, Queer Identity, Teen & Young Adult Fiction

    Lesson Plan: This Time Will Be Different | TeachingBooks Guide

    This Time Will Be Different is about a Japanese American girl who fights to keep her Northern Californian community together amidst tension. This novel is perfect for English classrooms and teaching about racial prejudice and immigrant communities.


    Amazon.com: Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American:  9780063067776: Gao, Laura, Gao, Laura: BooksMessy Roots by Laura Gao

    Recommended Grade Levels: 9-12

    Keywords: Wuhanese Immigrant Experiences, Texas, Queer Identity, COVID-19

    Messy Roots is about a Wuhanese Texan girl who navigates new revelations about her sexuality, and the growing negative connotation surrounding the town of her birth. This story is relevant to contemporary issues of COVID-19 and anti-Asian racism and would be useful in high school English classrooms. 


    Amazon.com: They Called Us Enemy: 9781603094504: Takei, George, Eisinger,  Justin, Scott, Steven, Becker, Harmony: BooksThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei

    Recommended Grade Levels: 10-12

    Keywords: Japanese American Internment, Graphic Novel, Autobiography, Teen & Young Adult

    Lesson Plan: A Teacher's Guide to George Takei's They Called Us Enemy

    They Called Us Enemy is about George Takei's personal experiences as a child in a Japanese American relocation center during World War II. The graphic novel directly explores the Japanese internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas and as such, it would be great to use in a US or Arkansas history class.


    The Waiting: Gendry-Kim, Keum Suk, Hong, Janet: 9781770464575: Amazon.com:  BooksThe Waiting by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim 

    Recommended Grade Levels: 10-12

    Keywords: Korean War, Family, Graphic Novel, Biography

    The Waiting is about a biography about a young family in the Korean War who must separate to survive then years later struggles to reunite. This graphic novel explores difficult issues such as war and loss through vivid imagery and would be great for high school history students.

    Who We Are

    Housed within the Asian Studies Program at the University of Central Arkansas, the Arkansas NCTA aims to empower elementary and secondary school teachers to center East Asian art, literature, history, and culture in their classrooms.

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