One benefit of a mile-long TBR list is that there is always a themed booklist hiding within. This month, as luck (and publishing trends) would have it, my list contains a lovely selection of titles in celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage month. As we honor Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US, this May, and celebrate the diverse traditions, tastes, and identities they represent, I can’t think of a better way to appreciate their varied experiences than through stories, can you?
Here’s what’s had me turning pages well into the night this month…
Illustrated by Genevieve Simms
Kids Can Press, April 2019
Mayumi grows up and grows close to her grandfather as he teaches her to care for the garden he’s built her. But when her Ojiichan is no longer able to work in the garden, Mayumi must learn to accept the change in their relationship and give a gift of her own. Gentle and quiet, an explanation of aging and the changing relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.
Pie in the Sky
Henry Holt, May 2019
Jingwen is struggling. Moving to Mars (aka Australia) is hard. Learning to speak English is hard. Making friends is hard. Losing his father is hard. But making cake is easy and making the cakes he made with his father seems to make the rest a bit easier too. The juxtaposition of prose and comic-style illustrations complement the honest mixing of humor and grief in Jingwen’s world.
I Love You So Mochi
Scholastic, May 2019
Fleeing a fight with her mother over her future plans, Kimi Nakamura impulsively accepts an invitation to spend spring break in Kyoto, Japan with the grandparents she’s never met. But her journey of self-discovery takes a turn for the romantic when a cute boy (dressed as a mochi) volunteers to help her figure out what she’s meant to do. As they explore the sights in Kyoto, Kimi comes to value her true artistic vision, her budding relationships with Akira and her grandparents, and her mother’s concern for her future. Adventure, flirtation, and delicious treats on the path to enlightenment.
The Beauty of the Moment
MacMillan, February 2019
Susan is a recent transplant from India to Canada, by way of Saudi Arabia—book-smart, artistic, and driven by a desire not to disappoint her parents. Malcolm was born and raised in Canada by an angry father and deceased mother—street-smart, hurting, and trying to figure it all out. As their relationship evolves (and devolves) and each deals with their own family struggles, they will learn how to be friends and to be themselves. Full of all the heartaches, headaches, and struggles of growing up, with just enough humor to balance the weight.
And a summer publication worth waiting for…
The Downstairs Girl
Penguin Teen/Putnam, August 2019
Orphan, turned hat designer, turned ladies maid, turned secret advice columnists, Jo Kuan is used to blending into the background as a form of self-preservation. But now her unconventional advice about challenging societal norms in 1890s Atlanta and a desire to challenge her own family’s troubled history, may just be the things that push her into the spotlight. A thoughtful commentary on race, gender, and being true to one’s self.