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Youth Book Corner: Celebrating Asian-Canadian Authors

The recent attack in Atlanta, Georgia against Asian-Americans has raised concerns over the rise of anti-Asian racism in North America. There are growing calls to stand with Asians and stop the hate. Asian-Canadians form a large and integral part of Canada’s rich, ethnic diversity. Among their other contributions, Asian-Canadian authors have penned some of our most beloved books. Our Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, selects a few recent and upcoming releases for youth by Asian-Canadian authors.         

When I Found Grandma
Written by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illustrated by Qin Leng

When I Found Grandma is a moving portrayal of intergenerational and intercultural differences within a family that happen when members migrate to other countries. The book follows the story of Maya who wears fancy clothes and tries to impress her grandma with big words when she visits her from thousands of miles away. Her excitement to see her grandma soon wanes because grandma cooks food with strange ingredients and she wakes Maya up early in the morning with her prayer bells. But when grandma agrees to wear Western clothes, which includes an “all-American” baseball cap, for a family outing, Maya is overjoyed; and when she gets lost in a sea of people and feels scared, it’s her grandma’s bobbing head with the baseball hat that helps Maya find her way back to her family. Beautifully illustrated in watercolours by Qin Leng, this is a book that families of all immigrants will relate to and identify with. Grades Preschool-2   

David Jumps In
Written by Alan Woo, illustrated by Katty Maurey

It is no secret that sports are one of the biggest cultural unifiers in the world. We know of the common ones like soccer, cricket, and tables tennis that are played all over and, in this book, we learn of yet another sport that bridges cultural divide and helps a child make new friends. David is new to his school and recess is difficult because everyone is busy playing their own games and he is alone. He wants to play elastic skip, a Chinese game played using a string of rubber bands, but David is hesitant to show this game to others, because he is not sure how they will respond. Written in simple, lyrical free verse, the book explores the themes of friendship, diversity, belonging and inclusion, and celebrates David’s self-acceptance and comfort with his own unique identity, lessons that are more important now than ever. Grades Preschool-2  

Finding Home
Written by Jen Sookfong Lee, illustrated by Drew Shannon

Leaving one’s home country and migrating to a new one where you don’t know anyone and your future is uncertain is never an easy decision. Yet, due to war, politics, or other issues, people have moved across countries, continents and oceans since the dawn of time and the migration of humans from one place to another has shaped the world as we know it today. As a first-generation Chinese-Canadian, this is a subject close to author Jen Sookfong Lee’s heart. She draws on her personal experiences to talk about why people migrate and explores the topic from a historical perspective. We learn about the origins of human migration and current issues facing immigrants and refugees today. As the book reminds us, we are in the worst humanitarian crisis in history, with the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers since World War II. Sookfong Lee’s book, therefore, is timely and an important educational tool. Grades 3-7

Made in Korea
Written by Sarah Suk

With the recent success of South Korean films, TV shows and pop music, the country is enjoying global fame and interest in its culture. Author Sarah Suk humorously writes about yet another extremely popular export from the country: beauty products. Set in an American high school, the book focuses on two rival businesses competing for the title of “the best business in school.” There is Valerie Kwon’s V&C K-BEAUTY, the school’s hitherto most successful student-run enterprise, and new-kid-on-the-block, Wes Jung’s K-pop branded beauty products, which are suddenly all the rage. Valerie’s monopoly now under imminent threat, a turf war erupts. Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. Suk crafts an entertaining and breezy read that successfully captures the zeitgeist of our times. Grades 8-12

Author

Leena Desai