Home Unpolished Book Lists #OwnVoices American Asian & Pacific Islanders

#OwnVoices American Asian & Pacific Islanders

via Ashia
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Quick Things You Need To Know:

  • In addition to Raising Luminaries/Books For Littles (a Chinese-American organization), here are some more AAPI kidlit-focused organizations that focus on race (but unlike RL, these are mostly only race-focused, less on the intersection of AAPI + other targeted identities.)
    • Lee & Low Books (Boston-based kidlit publishers) Quality of engagement for books vary depending on the author.
    • Pragmatic Mom – Mia Wenjen is a Gen X Newton-based Chinese & Japanese American mom & kidlit blogger. Most of her work is fairly progressive although not quite as radically progressive, intersectional, and nitpicky as BFL, which is mostly a generational thing. Also less (no) cursing. And her book Sumo Joe is spectacular.
    • Tuttle Publishing: Publishers originated in both Vermont & Tokyo. Their books are consistently adorable, although most lean toward didactic non-fiction.
    • Mango & Marigold Press: (Formerly Bharat Babies) – Kids books about the South Asian experience, with many books centering on South Asian American experiences. Transparency: The founder, Sailaja Joshi, is one of my patreon-supporters, we’ve done a maker spotlight on her work, and I recently consulted with M&M on an upcoming children’s book.
    • Saffron Press: #OwnVoices South Asian Sikh publisher centering on inclusion, sustainability, and kindness. We’ve done a maker spotlight on the founder, Navjot Kaur, who has become dear to me as a friend collaborating in raising kind and courageous humans.
  • We tend to evaluate a maker based on the first book we read by them – and that’s a mistake. Almost all of the makers below have at least one great book and a few duds.

How I find #OwnVoices AAPI makers

  • See the #OwnVoices mainpage for more details on how I research & identify #Ownvoices authors.
  • I’ve compiled most of these names based on the bios within book jackets as I’m processing new books. Since my note system includes manual tagging (ex #OwnVoices AAPI) I didn’t bother with finer details, but as I get time, I’ll include home countries, nationality, and cultural info.
  • Most often for US-born & based authors, that’s left out of profiles, so the vast majority of these are US & Canadian makers

Systemic hurdles in searching for AAPI makers

  • While there are lots of Asians publishing books in US kidlit, Asians are most often illustrators – not authors who get to drive the story. And within that – most Asians have been either forced by publishers to draw white characters (with anthropomorphic animals close behind to appeal to white audiences. Some just choose to, for whatever reason (cough cough internalized racism). In which case – are these really #OwnVoices books? That analysis is going to have to wait until I have time to sub-divide/rank this list.
  • I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out how racism is integrated with tech. Trying to search for books by the names of Asian makers with traditional/Indigenous names, sites such as Amazon and Bookshop will return auto-corrected searches trying to twist these names into common English words. There usually isn’t even an option to click “I meant what I fucking typed” like when Google tries to correct a search. For example, it wasn’t until 2020 that Amazon allowed my to search for the work of Qin Leng without including the exact title of one of her books. To underline how ridiculous this is, Leng is a prolific illustrator who has contributed to over 25 well-known books in her career. If you want to find an semi-unknown author with a common last name (ex: Basia Tran), Bookshop will just toss search results with every fucking book remotely using the word ‘tran’ – completely ignoring the ‘Basia‘ from the equation. Which means if you want to search for more books by your favorite AAPI maker, you’re going to have to already know the exact titles of those books. Yay for more erasure of AAPI contributions to art and media! (This is a sarcasm.)
  • Except for a few makers here, each name is accompanied by a popular book of theirs. This is mostly for my reference so I can quickly remember who is who. It’s not necessarily my favorite book of theirs, it’s just the one I remember them most by.
  • Despite publishers calling in AAPI folks to draw white biographies – Notably missing from this list: ANY books about Grace Lee Boggs, Yuri Kochiyama, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Vincent Chin, Larry Itliong, and other notable biographies within the AAPI civil rights movement because publishers pay us so long as we fall in line (or cook tasty things), but never accept us in leadership roles. (Dang that pesky erasure!)
  • There are no picture books in the US about K-Pop. I checked. I’m sad too. And there aren’t any books about AAPI music (outside classic music, yes we have Yo Yo) because…well when is the last time you saw us person allowed to take up space on a stage and get loud? YA DON’T. (Unless it’s K-Pop.)

Who is not included in this list:

  • Authors whose work I haven’t had a chance to screen- makers whose work has been vanity & micro-press published usually aren’t available in my local library system, which means I can’t get my hands on them.
  • Authors who create those low-quality basic filler books that say nothing new and waste readers’ time.

Click here to go back to the unpolished book collections main page.

This post may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with the BFL statement of accountability. When possible I use Bookshop links, or Amazon if that’s not available.

Quick & Messy Book List:


In Alpahbetical-ish Order

These are all of the authors and illustrators whose identities I’ve been able to verify identify as American or Canadian Asian & Pacific Islander, members of the API diaspora living on Turtle Island, or native API makers working in their homelands (very popular Korean, Japanese, and Chinese books occasionally get translated into English and make it overseas). Unless otherwise noted, I’ve read at least one (often more) of their books. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you go out and read them, as the vast majority of them are underwhelming. Just gonna throw these in here and add to the list when I can.













  • Jillian Ma – In My World. Just this one book is enough to turn me off this illustrator forever. Maybe her other books are fine. But ‘In My World’ promotes the ‘locked in’ myth that autistics have been trying to dismantle for decades. This is a clear example of impact over intent – and the impact of her work is harmful to autistics. I’m not going to blanket tell you to avoid her work, but be very careful cause this book is ableist AF.
  • Kyo Maclear – Spork
  • Debbi Michiko Florence – Jasmine Toguchi
  • Ken Min – Benji the bad day and me
  • Raakhee Mirchandani – Super Satya Saves The Day
  • Ken Mochizuki – Water be my friend
  • Carmen Mok – Grandmother’s Visit













  • Ange Zhang – Grandfather counts
  • Kat Zhang – Amy Wu And The Perfect Bao
  • Nancy Zhang – Miss Paul And The President (don’t read that garbage book). I *think* this is a Asian German illustrator who, for whatever reason, white people keep hiring to illustrate their poorly-resarched books. Zhang seems to be exclusively interested in only drawing white people, and also it’s just WEIRD that she was complicit in illustrating a book elevating Alice Paul, known white supremacist who actively DID NOT FIGHT for the rights of Asian women to vote BUT OKAY SURE WHATEVER, you do you, Nancy.)
    • Fam – Every time someone recommends a book about a white suffragist, let’s burn some joss paper for Auntie Mabel.
    • SUBTEXT: Where are all the f-ing books about Asian activists?
  • Farhana Zia – Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji


last updated: July 2020

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2 observations

Laura Cunningham July 16, 2020 - 5:08 PM

Hi! Is it appropriate to plug my cousins’ work? https://www.theguambus.com/ They’re Chamorro and make books and art to sustain the Chamorro language and culture. Micro press for sure… but they make cool stuff. Apologies if this was out of line!

Ashia July 19, 2020 - 11:17 PM

This is great!


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