Our favorite stories about Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander girls

To celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, we’ve created a list of books for young people by and about members of the AANHPI community. We encourage you to read these with the girls and gender-expansive youth you know, and connect over characters who face challenges, stand up for themselves, and grow in a variety of ways.

These AANHPI books are grouped into three reading levels: books for readers in Grades 2 & 3, 4 & 5, and 6, 7 & 8.

We’ve included guides for each book if you want to facilitate a book discussion, or simply to deepen your enjoyment as you read the books together.

– GRADES 2 & 3 –


Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

Buy or borrow a copy of this book.

About the book
Nine-year-old Yasmin loves books, and she loves visiting Book Uncle’s rickety bookstand every day. When the mayor announces plans to shut the stand down, Yasmin decides she must take action. She knows she won’t be able to change the mayor’s mind on her own. If she wants to save this resource for her town, she’s going to have to inspire her whole community to care.

Book Uncle and Me was named a South Asia Book Award Honor Book, and received placements on “Best of” lists including the 2017 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year and Kirkus’ Best Middle Grade Books of 2016.


About the author
Uma Krishnaswami was born in India and now lives in British Columbia. She has written many books for children, including The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic, and Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh. Krishnaswami is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. To learn more about her, visit her website.


Download Book Uncle Discussion Guide


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Buy or borrow a copy of this book.

About the book
In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.


Download Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Discussion Guide


The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

The Year of the Dog (A Pacy Lin Novel, 1)

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the book
Pacy lives in upstate New York, but most of her extended family is in Taiwan. Being the only Asian girl in school is tough. Pacy fields confusing questions about her background, and no one else shares her family traditions. Plus, the only book about Chinese people she can find in the school library is a traditional fairy tale, not a story about real people like her.

When Pacy’s family celebrates the Chinese New Year, her mom explains that the Year of the Dog is all about finding a best friend and discovering one’s self. Pacy doesn’t know what her unique talent will be. Will it be acting? Science? Drawing? Pacy works hard, keeps her sense of humor, and stays hopeful that the Year of the Dog will be a lucky one for her.


Download The Year of the Dog Discussion Guide


About the author

Grace Lin is an American author and illustrator of picture books, books for early readers, and middle-school novels. Lin often includes aspects of Taiwanese and Chinese culture in her works. In 2022, Lin won the American Library Association’s Children’s Literature Legacy Award for her overall contributions to children’s literature. Lin lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with her husband, daughter and a fluctuating amount of chickens. To learn more about the author, visit her website.


The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the book
4th-grader Anna Wang turns to books for comfort and company. Books are friends to her, sometimes even better friends than people. They’re certainly less complicated, especially when it comes to her friend Laura, who seems to have left Anna behind in favor of new friends. On top of that, Anna feels embarrassed about her mom’s cleaning job, and reluctant about attending Chinese school on the weekends. As Anna develops confidence and empathy, she finds happiness and fulfillment in her real relationships. This sweet illustrated novel examines the subtle complexities that even young children deal with in their friendships.

The Year of the Book was published in 2012. It was Junior Library Guild Selection, as well as a nominee for the Bluebonnet Award and the Beverly Cleary Award. This is the first book in the Anna Wang series.

 *Note to Parents: In this story, Anna’s friend Laura goes through a difficult family situation. Her parents split up, and the father continues to try to contact his ex-wife and daughter, even showing up at Anna’s house when Laura is spending the night. If this situation seems too mature for your young reader, consider reading Andrea Cheng’s book The Year of the Garden, instead. Published in 2017, this book is the prequel to The Year of the Book, and it features younger versions of Anna and Laura getting to know each other and learning valuable lessons about friendship as they plant a garden together.


About the author
Andrea Cheng was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She spoke several languages and taught English as a Second Language. Ms Cheng wrote The Year of the Book in 2012, and subsequently published three sequels and one prequel. She wrote books for children of all ages, from picture books to young adult novels. To learn more about her, visit her website.


Download The Year of the Book Discussion Guide


Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the Book
3rd grader Clara Lee dreams of being Little Miss Apple Pie in her town’s fall festival, but in order to win the title she’ll have to give a speech to the whole school. When Clara Lee has a lucky dream, her belief in her good fortune gives her the extra confidence she needs to sign up for the competition.

Unfortunately, Clara Lee’s luck seems to change right before the big day. Should she withdraw from the contest? Clara Lee realizes that every day has some good parts and some bad parts, and that maybe luck has more to do with her perspective than with superstition. She decides that the best way to make good luck is to face her fears and try.


About the Author
Author Jenny Han grew up in Richmond, VA, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books for teens and two for children. To learn more about Jenny Han and her books, check out her website at jennyhan.com.


Download Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream Discussion Guide


Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lại

Inside Out and Back Again: A Newbery Honor Award Winner

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the Book
Inside Out and Back Again
, the story of a family of Vietnamese refugees, is based on the childhood experiences of the author, and powerfully written in beautiful, spare verse.

Ten year-old Hà lives in Saigon with her mother and brothers. Though many of their neighbors have fled because of the Vietnam War, Hà and her family want to stay. After all, this is home. And, they want to be there when her father, who disappeared nine years before, finally returns.

When they have no choice but to flee for their safety, they end up in Alabama, where Hà and her family face still more challenges. They must learn the language, the culture, and, most importantly, make a home in a place that couldn’t feel more foreign. Hà, who felt smart and capable at home, feels stupid at her new school. The other kids bully and laugh at her. Only the love and constancy of her family gives her a sense of hope.

Together the family endures until, slowly, slowly, positive experiences – learning to speak English, making friends – begin to weigh against the bad ones. Each positive experience helps Hà and her family process their grief, and build a life in their new home.

About the Author

Like Hà, Thanhhà Lại was born in Saigon and immigrated to Alabama in 1975. She currently lives in New York City. You can learn more about her at her website.

Inside Out and Back Again is Lại’s first novel, and has earned many awards, including the National Book Award and the Newbery Honor. Her second novel, Listen, Slowly, published in 2015, was a NYT bestseller, a Publisher’s Weekly “Best Book of the Year,” and one of NPR’s Best Books of 2015.


Download Inside Out & Back Again Discussion Guide


Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Rickshaw Girl | A Mighty Girl

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the book
Naima wishes she had been born a boy. If she were a boy, she could drive a rickshaw and earn money for her family. Her father could rest, and her parents wouldn’t have to worry so much about money.

When Naima embarks on a plan to make money, she just makes a mess. But Naima doesn’t give up. She thinks of another way to make money. It’s going to take all her courage, and every ounce of her talent, but she’s just the right girl for the job.


About the Author
Mitali Perkins was born in India and moved to New York City when she was 7. It was here that she discovered her love for reading and writing. The fire escape of her family’s apartment was her favorite place to read, write, and think. She has written nine novels for young readers. Rickshaw Girl was named one of the “100 Great Children’s Books” of the past hundred years by the New York Public Library. Perkins now lives in the Bay Area. Learn more about Mitali Perkins on her website —her “virtual fire escape”— at mitaliperkins.com.


Download Rickshaw Girl Discussion Guide


Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth (Author) and Jessica Blank (Illustrator)

Buy or borrow a copy of this book.

About the Book

Anjali is excited to buy a license plate for her new bike, but none of the plates have her name on them. Why does her name have to be so different? Feeling unhappy, Anjali decides she’s going to change her name—but then she learns just how special her name is, and realizes it’s great to be one of a kind. Always Anjali encourages readers to celebrate differences and to be proud of what makes each of us unique. The Anjali series was the first picture book series that centered a South Asian hero, and both books published so far have been on the USA Today bestseller list.


About the Author

Sheetal Sheth is an award winning actress, author, producer, and activist. She has starred in more than 20 feature films, supports multiple community organizations, including South Asian Youth Action (SAYA) and For the Love of Reading, and publishes extensively for adults and children. Her first book was Always Anjali, which is based on her own experiences. Learn more about Sheetal on her website.

Sheetal and her publisher have created an activity pack to go along with the book, which you can find at this link.


– GRADES 4 & 5 –


Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the book
Amina has just started middle school, and already things feel different. And not in the good way. Her best friend wants to change her name from Soojin to a more American sounding name, and, even worse, she wants to include Emily, a girl that Amina distrusts, in their friendship. Amina’s feeling jealous and insecure, and she can’t even turn to her music for comfort because her strict Muslim uncle disapproves. When her mosque is vandalized, she finds that she has a strength that she didn’t realize she had – inner strength, a strength that comes from the support of others.

Amina’s Voice was published in 2017. It received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist.


About the author
Hena Khan was born and lives in Maryland. She has written several other books for children. Amina’s Voice is her first middle-grade novel. Learn more about her here.


Download Amina’s Voice Discussion Guide


Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the book
Life has been hard for Mia and her parents since moving from China to America just two years ago. When they’re hired to manage a small motel, they believe their luck is improving. But the hotel owner Mr. Yao is cruel and greedy. He takes advantage of Mia’s family, making it hard for them to earn a living wage, much less save money.

Still, Mia enjoys working the front desk, and constantly dreams about ways she can make the motel better. When Mr. Yao announces that he’s going to sell the motel, she comes up with her biggest dream yet: a way for her family and friends to take luck into their own hands.

Published in 2018, Front Desk earned several starred reviews and the ALA’s Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in 2019.


About the author
Kelly Yang is a children’s book author, as well as the founder of the Kelly Yang Project, an educational organization that teaches kids about writing and debate from a very young age. The plot of Front Desk was inspired by her own experiences running motels with her parents when they emigrated from China to America. She now splits her time between San Francisco and Hong Kong.


Download The Front Desk Discussion Guide


– GRADES 6, 7, & 8 –


The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 

About the book
Kiran is embarrassed of her parents – their traditional Indian clothes and food show that they just don’t get it – and especially of the way they always call her “princess.” When a demon attacks on the morning of her 12th birthday and kidnaps her parents, Kiran learns that she really is a princess, and that she is the true daughter of the Moon Goddess and the Serpent King. With the help of a prince from another realm, Kiran journeys to save her parents, and discovers a side of herself that she never knew existed.

The Serpent’s Secret was published in 2018 and received many glowing reviews, including a starred review from School Library Journal. The next book in the series, Game of Stars, will be published in early 2019.

About the author
Sayantani Dasgupta grew up in an immigrant Indian family in Ohio, and spent summers in Kolkata where she heard the fantastical folktales that she drew upon when writing this book. Dasgupta currently lives in New York. Find more information about the author here.


Download The Serpent’s Secret Discussion Guide


Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

Buy or borrow a copy of this book. 
About the book
Mimi and her family have just moved from Berkeley to Vermont. Everything feels different and unwelcoming, especially the kids at school. They don’t know what to make of half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, with her aspirations to go to the moon. Despite the meanness of her new community, Mimi stays true to herself and finds a couple of close friends.

This novel in verse is set in 1969. The beautiful language and uplifting story show the power of holding fast to dreams, how a family can support each other, and how a community can redeem itself.

Published in 2015, Full Cicada Moon was named one of Kirkus’ Best Middle Grade Books of the Year and a Junior Library Guild selection.


About the author
Marilyn Hilton has written two middle grade novels. She lives in Northern California with her family, and when she says that her “heart sings when she writes.” To learn more about Hilton, visit marilynhilton.com


Download Full Moon Discussion Guide

Want to learn more? Check out our new publication Why We Lead. This report, which was created by Girls Leadership in collaboration with Evaluation Studio and the Girls Leadership’s Youth Research Council (YRC), is the first-ever national study of the the leadership aspirations and challenges faced by Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) girls and gender-expansive youth.
Join us in amplifying the first national study of AANHPI girls and gender-expansive youth.
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