Great books for kids and adults to celebrate Asian Heritage Month
Calgary Public Library and Calgary Reads have shared some of their favourite picks
May is designated as Asian Heritage Month in Canada — and the Calgary Public Library and Calgary Reads have come up with some great related books for children, teens and adults.
The Calgary Public Library staff curated a list of 47 books and movies for kids, teens and adults to combat anti-Asian racism. The library team hopes the books will help people gain a deeper understanding about the past and present of racism against Asians in Alberta and beyond, as well as learning the stories of incredible people with inspiring stories led by Asian characters.
Here are some of their top picks from the books for adults on the list:
- Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong:
The library description: A unique personal, cultural and historical perspective of the exclusion and stereotyping of Asian Americans. Korean American poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in the United States. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative — and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world. provides a ruthlessly honest look at the results of being marginalized while being told and believing that you are not. Critically acclaimed as a 2020 Best Book of the Year and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Read more.
- Obasan, by Joy Kogawa.
The library description: Based on the author's own experiences, this award-winning novel was the first to tell the story of the evacuation, relocation and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War. Read more.
- Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging, by William Ging Wee Dere.
The library description: A voice for generations of silenced families who were broken apart by racist immigration "head tax" policies set up to destroy the lives of those who had just finished building Canada's railroad. Author-activist William Dere balances historical reportage of such brutal facts with humorous, lyrical reflection to lighten the tone of some very heavy local history. Read more.
- Moon Cakes in Gold Mountain: From China to the Canadian Plains, by J. Brian Dawson.
The library description: A vivid portrayal of everyday life for Chinese settlers in Western Canada, often in the face of violent prejudice, only to make incredible contributions to the same communities that kept them on the outside. Read more.
- Patterns of Racism: Attitudes Towards Chinese and Japanese in Alberta, 1920-1950, by Howard Palmer.
The library description: At the time this 20-page essay from the Calgary Public Library's Local History collection was written, 40 years ago, hostility toward Asian Canadians was recognized mainly as a British Columbia problem. This thesis aimed to expose that Alberta had its own anti-Asian prejudice to deal with. Read more.
- Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit in, by Phuc Tran.
The library description: Phuc Tran's coming-of-age memoir, available as a downloadable audiobook, explores his bewildering experiences of racism as a Vietnamese immigrant against the hairspray-and-synthesizer backdrop of the '80s United States. For anyone who has ever felt like they don't belong, Sigh, Gone shares an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation woven together with poignant themes from beloved works of classic literature. Read more.
- Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate and Circumstance, by Denise Chong.
The library description: Denise Chong explores the lives of the earliest Chinese settlers in the Ottawa region amidst the backdrop of the Exclusion Act, Japanese occupation of China, and the rise of communism. Read more.
- Great Fortune Dream: The Struggles and Triumphs of Chinese Settlers in Canada, 1858-1966, by David Chuenyan Lai.
The library description: A history of the Chinese in Canada, including racism and discrimination toward the Chinese community, their successes and contributions to Canadian society, and how the Canadian government has responded through policy to encourage multiculturalism and immigration. Read more.
See more great picks from the Calgary Public Library's All Ages Reading List to Combat Anti-Asian Racism list of 47 books and movies for kids, teens, and adults here.
Illustrated books to read with the kids:
Below is a list of picture books recommended by Calgary Reads to celebrate and learn more about Asian Heritage Month:
A Different Pond written by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui.
From the publisher: A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book that Kirkus Reviews calls "a must-read for our times," A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event — a long-ago fishing trip. Each morning, a father and son fish at a small pond in Minnesota to supply the family with food, and as they fish, the father tells a story about a fishing pond back in Vietnam. Read more.
Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon, written by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua.
From the publisher: In this sweet and brightly illustrated picture book, Amy Wu must craft a dragon unlike any other to share with her class at school in this unforgettable follow-up to Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao. After school, a story from Grandma sparks new inspiration, and Amy rounds up her family to help her. Together, can they make Amy's perfect dragon? Read more.
Stone Soup, by Jon J. Muth.
From the publisher: Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Read more.
Suki's Kimono, written by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch.
From the publisher: Suki's favourite possession is her blue cotton kimono. A gift from her obachan, it holds special memories of her grandmother's visit last summer. And Suki is going to wear it on her first day back to school — no matter what anyone says. Filled with gentle enthusiasm and a touch of whimsy, Suki's Kimono is the joyful story of a little girl whose spirit leads her to march — and dance — to her own drumbeat. Read more.
Sunday Funday in Koreatown, by Aram Kim.
From the publisher: Yoomi and Daddy are going to Koreatown today! This story celebrates family, resilience, and Korean culture. A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Read more.
The Change Your Name Store, by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kügler.
From the publisher: Meet Wilma Lee Wu, a spirited girl whose quest for a new name takes her around the world. Uncertain of where she belongs, Wilma marches to the Change Your Name Store. Each time she "tries on" a new name, she is transported to the country from which the name originates. Will Wilma find a new name that she likes and discover who she truly is? Read more.
The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi.
From the publisher: Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Read more.
Watercress, written by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin.
Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl's parents stop suddenly to gather watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. Read more.
CBC Calgary has partnered up with the Calgary-based Asian Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the appreciation of Asian-Canadian participation in and contribution to Canadian society. AHF includes active involvement from over 25 Asian-Canadian community groups in southern Alberta and over 200 volunteers in the development and delivery of its programs. See the virtual community events are being featured by the Asian Heritage Foundation here.
You can find out more ways to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in Alberta, including through virtual music, film and more here.