Read one Chinese/Chinese American novel by Laurence Yep.
Yep, Laurence. 1977. Child of the owl. New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishers. ISBN: 0-06-026743-7.
Having lost her mother at an early age, Casey is forced to go and live with her uncle and his family since her father is in debt to some loan sharks. When this doesn't work out, she is moved to her grandmother's home in Chinatown. Having no knowledge of her heritage or the language puts her at a disadvantage in school etc., but with the help of her grandmother and new friends, Casey grows to love her heritage and become one within herself. This intriguing tale brings the issue of children of a heritage they have never known to life as they struggle to fit in. Laurence uses the family well by presenting both the love and the discord among various members. Paw-Paw's philosophy in life serves her well and seems to be based on wisdom and experience with a huge dose of love. The culture that is introduced to the reader (the eight statues and the jade owl necklace) is done slowly and convincingly to help the reader understand the richness in this culture. The descriptions of the characters rock us back and forth from traditional to contemporary but the change is handled well. Stereotypes have been avoided with ease in this book and make it universally appealing. This is a book that once picked up is hard to put down. I obviously enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more from this author. This story, set in America, deals with cultural assimilation of Casey even to finding out her Chinese name, Cheun Meih. Accuracy is difficult to determine as the past is through folklore/family legend as told by Paw-Paw. However, to my knowledge this is historically and culturally correct.
Read one picture book by Allen Say.
Say, Allen. 1993. Grandfather's journey. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN: 0-395-57035-2.
The grandson narrates the story of his grandfather journeying to and through America and finding beauty everywhere. His grandfather tells him of the beauty of California in particular. Eventually the grandfather returns to Japan, marries and brings his wife to San Francisco. The grandfather takes the family back home years later where his daughter falls in love and marries. These are then the narrator's parents. The grandson eventually travels to America to see all that his grandfather has told him through the years. While his grandfather never returned after WWII, and the loss of home in the bombing is historically correct, the grandson loves both countries and travels back and forth, missing the other country no matter which one he is in. The pictures help the reader visualize everything, including the grandfather's love of songbirds. The clothing, skin tone, hair etc. are accurate for the time of the story and change accordingly as time passes to more contemporary. The importance of the grandfather in this story says much to the reader of the importance and respect of elders in this culture. This book could easily be autobiographical from the way it is told and illustrated. It serves well both as a read aloud and for independent reading.
Read one poetry book by Janet Wong (e.g. GOOD LUCK GOLD)
Wong, Janet. 1994. Good luck gold and other poems. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 0-689-50617-1.
This collection has some poems that are more universal in theme i.e. "Rich" and "The Visit." However, most of the collection shows cultural diversity for a person who is first or later generation of a culture who is stereotyped as an immigrant or outsider by others. This is done in a very skillful way. Certain poems in this collection by Janet Wong were favorites of mine due to the excellent examples of stereotyping that she is helping to explode by the power of her poems. Examples of this stereotyping are found in such poems as "Math" and "Noise". Bringing the stereotyping to the front so masterfully is bound to have an affect for many students who have experienced this situation even though they are born in America. This can be felt by more than Asian American i.e. Mexican, Puerto Rican, Spanish as well as other countries that come to America to avoid persecution or in the search for freedom. Such awareness in so few words will surely help to fight stereotyping as long as circulation and reading provide exposure throughout our youth. This collection is not only powerful but exciting and uplifting.
Read one children's or YA book of your choice by an Asian (Pacific) American.
An, Na. 2001. A step from heaven. New York, NY: SPEAK. ISBN: 0-14-250027-5.
In this book we view life through the eyes of Young Ju. Her family comes to America from Korea to seek a better life. As they struggle to learn how to fit in, find work, go to school, learn English, the family also encounters struggles from within as Apa turns to alcohol after the death of his mother. His abuse of the family escalates until finally he leaves. The family is left to gather up the pieces and in the end, the family not only survives but begins to flourish. Young Ju is placed in the position of the child looking after the family due to her ability to learn the English language. This child-parent switching in itself ties in with many families attending our schools today from a variety of countries. The struggle of this family and the maturing of Young Ju will strike a cord in every reader and while the accuracy and authenticity are there, the situation can also be applied universally for the experience the characters go through. The contemporary time permits students to understand that this could and probably is happening somewhere right at this time. Hopefully that will lead students to begin to think about what action they can take to make people like Young Ju more welcome and accepted for themselves rather than as a foreigner/outsider.