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A year ago, Hollywood was all abuzz with the release of Crazy Rich Asians. It was the first all-Asian cast movie to be released from a major studio in over 25 years. How is it that a cultural subpopulation of over 21,000,000 has received such little attention in modern media? By some accounts, it is the fastest-growing demographic in America.

While Asian American culture has been given a little more attention in pop culture due to the success of shows like Fresh Off the Boat and movies like the aforementioned Crazy Rich Asians, it is still almost nonexistent in most classrooms outside of the elementary units on the Chinese New Year or the occasional excerpt from Amy Tan that can be found in many high school literature anthologies.

Joy Luck Club is a brilliant piece of literature! Artistically, it is an amazing example of a nontraditional narrative style with seven different narrators, each with a unique voice as the novel alternates back and forth through their stories. Narratively, it is a study in both the clash between mothers and daughters as well as 1st generation Americans being torn between two cultures.

But there are so many other amazing pieces from Asian American writers that we should be exploring in our classrooms. As mentioned in the previous articles, our students need to see themselves represented in the literature studied in class, and not just during a multicultural unit.

America used to be described as the great melting pot, but that implies assimilation of culture that nullifies the beauties and riches found within the cultures that are coming together. Anthropologists have shifted to focusing on the US being a salad in which each “flavor” is valued and appreciated. So, unless you are teaching a classroom full of very old, white men, your curriculum and classroom library should represent a wide variety of cultures, lifestyles, and experiences.

It is worth mentioning that you should be sensitive to inappropriate representations of cultural stereotypes in literature, as well. If a character in something you are studying is a satirical representation of extreme cultural stereotypes, discuss why this was done, what makes it inappropriate, and the negative impact subtle racism in the media can have. If it is just poking fun, explore how this might make members of this population feel; challenge students to consider if the portrayal was reversed and making fun of them.

Make sure you are not just teaching political correctness, but respect for cultural diversity. Explain the richness of the individual cultures that make up the Asian continent (or better yet, have students explore these).

As suggested in previous articles in this series,  add some titles to your classroom library that have prominent Asian American characters (both fiction and nonfiction). Also seamlessly integrate literary pieces written by Asian American writers into your instruction all year round.

Here are some of our favorite titles.

As with all content, you should make sure that you have properly vetted, studied, and received approval for any piece before teaching it or even adding it to your classroom library.

Please add your favorite titles in the comments!

Children’s Books

A Path of Stars, Anne Sibley O’Brien

Bee-Bim Bop!, Linda Sue Park

Big Red Lollipop, Rukhsana Khan

Cora Cooks Pancit, Dorina Lazo Gilmore

Dear Juno, Soyung Pak

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, Sanjay Patel

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, Chieri Uegaki

Hot Hot Roti for Dada-Ji, Farhana Zia

King for a Day, Rukhsana Khan 

Lin Ui’s Lantern, Brenda Williams

The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi

Suki’s Kimono, Chieri Uegaki

Wabi Sabi, Mark Reibstein

Zen Shorts, John Muth

Chapter Books

Alvin Ho (series), Lenore Look

Aru Shah (series), Roshani Chokshi

Dumpling Days (series), Grace Lin

Hiroshima, Laurence Yep

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Bette Bao Lord

The Year of the Dog (series), Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin

Junior High

American Born Chinese (graphic novel), Gene Luen Yang

Blackbird Fly, Erin Entrada Kelly

Ichiro (graphic novel), Ryan Inzana

Listen, Slowly, Thanhha Lai

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo, Greg Leitich Smith

Project Mulberry, Linda Sue Park

Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, Lisa Yee

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything & The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, Uma Krishnaswami

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, Wendy Wan-Long Shang

The Thing About Luck, Cynthia Kadohata

High School

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir, Nicole Chung

America Is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan

America Is Not the Heart, Elain Castillo

Dragon Chica & Tiger Girl, May-lee Chai

Falling Leave: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter, Adeline Yen Mah

Frankly in Love, David Yoon

Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok

Hiroshima, John Hersey

Hunger: A Novella and Stories, Lan Samantha Chang

I Love You So Mochi, Sarh Kuhn

Internment, Samira Ahmed

Korean Girl in America, Hope Kim

Like a Love Story, Abdi Nazemian

Love from A to Z, S. K. Ali

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, Sheba Karim

Native Speaker, Chang-rae Lee

Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami

Saints and Misfits, S. K. Ali

Skunk Girl, Sheba Karim

Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman

Taipei, Tao Lin

The Astonish Color of After, Emily X. R. Pan

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston

Up From the Sea, Leza Lowitz

Wait for Me, An Na

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