20 Books That Had the Greatest Impact on Asians Growing Up

asian books

We asked our readers via Instagram (@nextshark) about Asian/Asian American books that had the greatest impact on them growing up. Here are 19 books to put on your reading list:

1. “Secret Asian Man” (Nick Carbó, 2000)

Left image via KHN center for the Arts, Right image via Amazon

It was the first time at age 19 that I’ve ever encountered a poetry book written by a FilAm that served as a critique on how America views Asian American males. It was also a powerful reclaiming of Asian American identity through pop culture. – Tony, 29, Filipino American (@tonyrosaspeaks)

2. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” Trilogy (Jenny Han, 2014)

Images via Instagram / @jennyhan

I read the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy by Jenny Han starting when I was about 12 or 13. I appreciated how Lara Jean’s identity wasn’t the main focal point of the series – the overall plot was a coming-of-age story – and instead showed the way her identity affected little things in her life (like how LJ can never seem to find a good Halloween costume without being asked if she was a samurai or Cho Chang) because that’s how it is for a lot of Asian Americans, particularly growing up when you aren’t as a aware of race and how it makes you different from others. – Annie, 16, Half Korean and half Chinese (@anniekingkong)

3. “When My Name was Keoko” (Linda Sue Park, 2002)

Left image via Twitter / @LindaSuePark, Right image via Instagram @nette.lou

In fourth grade, somebody gave me a copy of Linda Sue Park’s “When My Name was Keoko.” It moved me to tears, and I felt like I could now comprehend some of the horrors my grandparents lived through as children during the Korean War. – Grace, 16, Korean American (@naoreymi)

4. “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner” (Bich Minh Nguyen, 2007)

Left screenshot via Instagram / @bethminhnguyen, Right image via Instagram / @fiercefemme27

It really opened my eyes to see what my parents went through when immigrating to the US, and how they had to assimilate. – Tiffany, 18, Vietnamese (@ttiffanydangg)

5. “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (Amy Chua, 2011)

Left image via Instagram / @miau_magazin, Right image via Instagram / @vidishateral

It helped me understand my parents on a deeper level and helped me gain a sense of empathy for them and their struggles to raise their children in a foreign country. Also, it helped me gain insight on the philosophy of tiger parenting. Overall, a super good read! – Tina, 18, Chinese (@tchen705)

6. “American Born Chinese” (Gene Luen Yang, 2006)

Left image via Instagram @geneluenyang, Right image via Instagram @reading_hourly

It was very relatable and it somewhat comforted me knowing that I wasn’t the only one going through this and that there are others that probably had it much much harder than me. – Scarlett, 13, Chinese (@sckarks)

7. “Year of the Dog” (Grace Lin, 2006)

Left image via Instagram / @pacylin, Right image via Amazon

This book really made me happy because Grace Lin wrote it in the perspective of her younger self, an Asian American girl who struggled with Asian stereotypes like I did. I used to read this book every few months. – Linh, 16, Chinese and Vietnamese (@linty_art)

8. “The Year of the Rat” (Grace Lin, 2008)

Left image via Instagram / @pacylin, Right image via Walmart 

It’s been one of my favorite books since childhood. It helped me understand the struggles of growing up from an Asian American background. It also taught me that you should be proud of it. Such a book taught a simple girl like me to appreciate and understand the culture that I come from, and I couldn’t be more happy that I cam across it. – Jasmine, 16, Chinese-Cambodian (@jasminessim)

9. “Unpolished Gem” (Alice Pung, 2006)

Images via Instagram (left) @literarycanonball (right) @j.w.hawea

Saving face was a common theme through the latter part of the book, and it was really interesting to see her experience with that reality in contrast to mine. It was clear throughout the entire story that her parents sacrificed so much to give her the life she had and that was the same case for me. I have never read a book more relatable to me. I think the fact that I read the book when I was a teenager and the fact that it was based on true events that featured an Australian of Asian background growing up was what made it relatable. – Ethan, 21, Australian of Ethnic Sri Lankan Descent (@dynukethan)

10. Author Laurence Yep

Images via Instagram / @chewylifestyle

His books were a mix of what my family experienced and grew up around. I got into reading because of him and became more appreciative of my asian heritage. – Kimmai, 36, Vietnamese, Chinese and European

11. “America Is in the Heart” (Carlos Bulosan, 1943)

Images via Instagram (left) @dualcitizenseries (right) @adamisasian

This book is a classic by the Filipino-American poet. His story of his tough life in the Philippines and transition and early experiences in America are both heartbreaking and humbling. It’s life-changing for Filipino Americans such as myself who were born in the motherland and brought to America to be white washed and throw away the culture. – Gabriel, 16, Filipino (@brokeboigabee)

12. “Fresh off the Boat” (Eddie Huang, 2013)

Images via Instagram (left) @mreddiehuang (right) @booksnhoney

So relatable in many ways with my life – Christopher, 26, Chinese (@chrisch3n)

13. “Inside Out and Back Again” (Thanhha Lai, 2011)

Images via Instagram (left) @jcbook_pimp (right) @raining_letters

I’m currently reading this to my fifth graders. It focuses on Vietnamese immigration in 1975. Amazing read! – Theresa, 43, Vietnamese (@downtowncatlady)

I was able to relate to the book and overall was just really fun to read. Also, there is a chapter dedicated to the magic sauce nuoc mam. – Trang, 13, Vietnamese (@trangxnguyenn)

14. “Chinese Cinderella” (Adeline Yen Mah, 1999)

Images via Instagram / @realchinesecinderella

“Chinese Cinderella” had a big impact on me because it reminded me of stories my dad told me of his childhood, detailing some of the things that can be familiar in many Asian households. A good story of how to overcome difficulties and find self-acceptance. – Megan, 22, Half Chinese (@fungtastic13)

15. “The Joy Luck Club” (Amy Tan, 1989)

Images via Instagram (left) @amytanwriter (right) @emmeganreads

It was nice seeing Asian culture being discussed in my white English class. I even brought my mahjong set to school because by teacher wanted to show everyone! – Danica, 24, Filipino (@danicadelrey)

16. “The Funny Little Woman” (Arlene Mosel, 1972)

Image via Instagram / @nayarabelarmino

It was the first book I read where the lead character was Asian. – Trung, 29, Vietnamese American (@trungx2)

17. “Memoirs of a Geisha” (Arthur Golden, 1997)

Images via instagram (left) @friendswithabook (right) @_rainy_day_reads_

It was the first ever book I came across with an Asian origin story that tied together history, culture and awareness. It’s a true story that touched me even more considering it was written so beautifully on a subject that is very misconstrued and misunderstood. It taught me a lot about how people take things out of context when they don’t understand it but it had me in awe. – Michele, 19, Swiss and Indo-Chinese (@its.michele)

18. “When the Elephants Dance” (Tess Uriza Holthe, 2002)

Image via Instagram / @mylitbooks

I never had too many books about the Philippines growing up and my grandmother recommended it because she grew up there during World War II. – Kristin, 28, Filipino (@ohmybugles)

19. “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes” (Rose A. Lewis, 2000)

Images via Instagram / @retroriotreads

It’s about a mom who adopts a baby girl from China and loves her as her own child. It helped her to tell me about my story as an adopted Korean girl and my mom still says she loves me like crazy cakes to this day! – Alex, 21, Korean (@ymiyn)

20. “The Late Homecomer” (Kao Kalia Yang, 2008)

Image (left) via Instagram/crystaaaal.leeee, (right) via Instagram/lindabookmania

This helped me a lot being a Hmong person. It’s hard sometime, but I’m proud to be Hmong. This helped me learn what my parents went through. -Kelsue, 21, Hmong (@rawrimkelsue)

Disclaimer: Parts of the responses have been edited for clarity and grammar.

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