100% of the proceeds from the affiliate sales on these books will be donated to Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Our job at LittleFeminist.com is to help families diversify their bookshelves, because the number one way to build empathy and combat racism at home is through stories.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. From March 2020 to February 2021, Stop AAPI Hate tracked 3,795+ incidents of AAPI hate across the United States. The NYPD reported a 1,900% increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. This number is likely to be much higher, as many incidents are not reported. Hate crimes range from verbal harassment to being coughed at / spat on to physical assaults. Recently, many elders have been violently harmed with pushing, robberies, knife slashing, and fatal attacks. In Atlanta, on March 16th, six Asian women were killed by a white terrorist.
Anti-Asian scapegoating and racism is not new. During the 1875-76 smallpox outbreak in San Francisco, officials blamed Chinese residents. In 1900 during the bubonic plague, San Francisco officials quarantined 30,000 Chinese residents behind barbed wire, while white residents walked free. The 1871 Chinese massacre in Los Angeles and the 1930 Watsonville riots against the Filipino community are examples of anti-Asian racism that have led to fatal violence. The Page Act of 1875, which prohibited the entry of Chinese women to the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans are policies that hinge on Anti-Asian racism.
For many who present as East Asian and Southeast Asian, this time has been especially scary and traumatizing. As you consider what you can do in your family to combat Anti-Asian sentiments, consider expanding your bookshelves to include books that celebrate culture, promote Asian joy, and normalize the Asian American experience. Celebrating stories with Asian characters that are more than just stories about festivals and food, as well as including Asians in your anti-racist journey, is one way to combat racism, amplify the Asian American experience, and actively work towards a more equitable world.
Here are our 9 favorite books (along with important tips to raising anti-Racist kids) to celebrate East Asian and Southeast Asian culture and normalize the Asian American experience amongst your family.
Read about Asian Elders and Their Loved Ones
Include stories of many different families, while keeping in mind that no group is a monolith.
For your toddler: I Really Want To See You, Grandma!
This silly and sweet book is filled with the love between a grandparent and their grandchild. The sprightly grandma who hops on her motorcycle is a refreshing change of pace from ageist tropes of crotchety or clueless grandparents.
In typical Taro Gomi style, the repetitive kid-friendly sentences will have your kids reading along with you in no time. You’ll all crack up at each missed connection as Grandma and Yumi pass right under each other’s noses.
There is no better book if your family misses the elders in your life right now.
For your older child: The Most Beautiful Thing
This book is about all the tender things about a grandparent-child bond. Bursting with vibrant illustrations by Khao Le, this story told by Hmong American author, Kao Kalia Yang, tells about the deep and sacrificial love of Grandma through the years.
Our favorite line is from the grandchild narrator: “I squeezed her… and pulled [her] close to my heart, a hug for the hard road she’s walked to get to me.” This book is truly heartfelt, and is for all who know how special that grandparent-child bond is.
Showcase Asian Joy
Celebrating joy is an act of revolution and a counter to trauma stories.
You’ll be captivated by this story from the acclaimed author-illustrator Grace Lin. Lin draws on her Taiwanese roots to highlight the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with this whimsical story. A Caldecott Honor book, Big Mooncake for Little Star beautifully depicts the bond between a parent and child, the celebration of special moments, and the excitement and impatience of a young child.
Normalize Asian Characters
Stories with BIPOC characters should not always have to center on their culture.
This is a humorous and delightful book about two kids who come across a dugong (a relative of the manatee) at the beach. The dugong insists that she is a mermaid and goes to great lengths to try to prove it. We really appreciate the tongue in cheek humor and approachable way of teaching the importance of kindness and of listening to others well.
Written by Filipino author, Candy Gourlay, this is a great introductory book to a lesser known marine animal, the dugong or sea cow, and sea animal conservation. This one is perfect for your sea animal loving, mermaid loving, ocean loving, and/or humor loving kid!
Celebrate Asian Culture and Beauty
A culture is more than its festivals and food. It is also history, revolution, and empowerment.
This book is a love song about family, culture, and self. It is an ode to eyes that kiss in the corners. This book is for all of us. It is for Asians who have experienced the ridicule of slanty eye taunts and it is especially for those who haven’t had that experience, as we all dismantle white supremacy standards of beauty and hold a more inclusive acceptance of being.
Joanna Ho’s writing is gloriously lyrical, and Dung Ho’s illustrations are bursting with color, and fiercely, achingly gorgeous.
Discuss Bullying and its Effects
Be specific with your children about issues that may come up as they make friends. Practice conversations, give them specific phrasing and build their awareness so they can interrupt bullying.
This book may seem like it’s merely about tracking animal footprints in the snow. However, it packs bullying, intersectional identity, a multiracial Vietnamese and South Asian queer family, and complex emotions into one simple and visually stunning storyline.
Journey with Thuy (pronounced Twee) through nature, experience her emotions, and discover mythical creatures we can all relate to. Author Bao Phi and illustrator Basia Tran create a powerful story about how knowing where we come from can help us uncover our strengths.
Celebrate Asian Friendship & Family
Stories of inclusive friendship counter the narrative of the perpetual foreigner.
This book is about the strength of friendship and the power of learning about another’s perspective. When Jill comes to visit her cousin Natsumi for the first time, they find an instant connection.
We love this one for its celebration of nature, togetherness, summertime activities, and diverse families. Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi’s work together creates a sweet, joyful story that is filled with delight.
Introduce Asian American History
Asian American history is American history. Learn about it.
It Began With a Page is about new beginnings. In this biography about Gyo Fujikawa, we learn how she was one of the first US illustrators who drew characters of color in children’s books.
Through the story of Gyo’s life, Japanese Canadian author Kyo Maclear walks us through painful parts of American history. From the wrongful internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps to the continual struggle for Black liberation in the Civil Rights era, we learn that our freedom fight is intertwined and connected.
Feature Asian Empathy and Imagination
Counter the model minority myth by learning about the nuance, variety, and diversity of the Asian American experience.
This is a tale straight from the heart and a tender memory of childhood. Inspired by the childhood memories of following her parents to their work as night-time office janitors, Korean American author, Helena Ku Rhee, writes a powerful and imaginative story.
We appreciate this one for the way it melds fantastical stories about dragons in a paper kingdom with an invitation to see the world through the eyes of others – as we make our communities kinder and stronger.
About the Author: Shuli de la Fuente-Lau
Shuli is creator of the Instagram @AsianLitforKids, and the Content Lead at LittleFeminist.com – a monthly book club subscription and publishing house. Her specialty is early literacy. Check out more books through her Bookshop affiliate link.
Shuli is proudly a third culture kid who holds her Chinese Malaysian American identity with gratitude. Much of her perspective she attributes to her ability to stand in multiple places and to wrestle with what home and belonging means.
Shuli lives in Oakland, California with her husband and two strong, spirited, and vibrant daughters.