10 YA Books About Southeast Asian Americans

A couple of weeks ago we were asked for books about Southeast Asian American characters. Southeast Asia is a big region of the world, and yet it’s very difficult to find books about Southeast Asians in the contemporary United States. Some of the books here are technically upper middle-grade, but because it was so hard to find them, we included them anyway. Descriptions are from WorldCat, and links go to Barnes & Noble.

Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults collected and edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (PALH, 2003)

Twenty-nine stories about the saga of what it means to be young and Filipino.

Little Cricket by Jackie Brown (Hyperion Books for Children, 2004)

After the upheaval of the Vietnam War reaches them, twelve-year-old Kia and her Hmong family flee from the mountains of Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand and eventually to the alien world of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

She’s So Money by Cherry Cheva (HarperTeen, 2009)

Good girl Maya teams up with an unlikely ally Camden, the popular jock, plotting a devious plan to help her recover from a serious mistake.

Children of the River by Linda Crew (Delacorte Press, 1989)

Having fled Cambodia four years earlier to escape the Khmer Rouge army, seventeen-year-old Sundara is torn between remaining faithful to her own people and enjoying life in her Oregon high school as a “regular” American.

Fresh Off the Boat by Melissa de la Cruz (HarperCollins, 2005)

When her family emigrates from the Philippines to San Francisco, California, fourteen-year-old Vicenza Arambullo struggles to fit in at her exclusive, all-girl private school.

Sophomore Undercover by Benjamin Esch (Disney/Hyperion, 2009)

Despite obstacles, high school reporter Dixie Nguyen, an adopted Vietnamese orphan, doggedly investigates a drug scandal that may extend far beyond the football team.

Shadow of the Dragon by Sherry Garland (Harcourt Brace, 1993)

High school sophomore Danny Vo tries to resolve the conflict between the values of his Vietnamese refugee family and his new American way of life.

Roots and Wings by Many Ly (Delacorte Press, 2008)

While in St. Petersburg, Florida, to give her grandmother a Cambodian funeral, fourteen-year-old Grace, who was raised in Pennsylvania, finally gets some answers about the father she never met, her mother’s and grandmother’s youth, and her Asian-American heritage.

Trouble by Gary Schmidt (Clarion Books, 2008)

Fourteen-year-old Henry, wishing to honor his brother Franklin’s dying wish, sets out to hike Maine’s Mount Katahdin with his best friend and dog. But fate adds another companion–the Cambodian refugee accused of fatally injuring Franklin–and reveals troubles that predate the accident.

Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl’s Story by Pegi Deitz Shea (Clarion Books, 2003)

After ten years in a refugee camp in Thailand, thirteen-year-old Mai Yang travels to Providence, Rhode Island, where her Americanized cousins introduce her to pizza, shopping, and beer, while her grandmother and new friends keep her connected to her Hmong heritage.