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10 Awesome Books With Heroic Asian Characters

Inspiring books for early readers, middle-grade kids and young adults

Angelica Lai

Published on: May 27, 2021

10 Awesome Books With Heroic Asian Characters

“We Are Not Free” by Traci Chee

Young adult books (ages 11 and older)

American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang

This awesome graphic novel weaves together the seemingly disparate stories of three characters, leading up to a genius twist toward the end. The first action-packed story features the Monkey King, a legendary Chinese figure who fights for acceptance among the gods; the second narrative follows Jin Wang, who moves to a neighborhood where he’s the only Chinese American student in school and wants to fit in; and the third depicts Chin-Kee, a personification of negative Chinese stereotypes who visits his white cousin Danny and ruins Danny’s life. The book’s themes of identity and the pressures to assimilate are fresh and relatable, resonating with youths and adults alike.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World” (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

A must-read for tweens and teens, “I Am Malala” has been reimagined for a younger audience and focuses more immediately on Malala Yousafzai’s experiences as her hometown in Pakistan is transformed under the Taliban’s control. Yousafzai, an activist who fights for girls’ rights to be educated and the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, details her remarkable fight, the impacts of being shot in the head while riding the bus home from school and the support of her family through it all. In this inspiring book, she shows that one’s voice and moral courage matter. “My voice was the voice of so many others who wanted to speak but couldn’t,” she writes.

We Are Not Free” by Traci Chee

Keep the tissues close by for this book. This powerful work of historical fiction follows 14 close-knit Japanese American teenagers (yes, 14!) who are forced from their homes in San Francisco and  into squalid incarceration camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We cry and laugh with them through their joys and sorrows, we feel their rage in the face of heartbreaking injustices and racism, and we witness how the incredible strength and resilience of friendship help them endure this ugly chapter in American history.

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