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More Awesome Asian Americans: 20 Citizens Who Energized America

 

MORE AWESOME ASIAN AMERICANS:

20 CITIZENS WHO ENERGIZED AMERICA

WRITTEN BY PHIL AMARA AND OLIVER CHIN

ILLUSTRATED BY JUAN CALLE

(IMMEDIUM; $17.95, AGES 12+)

 

 

 

More Awesome Asian Americans written by Phil Amara and Oliver Chin with illustrations by Juan Calle is an illuminating young adult anthology that pays tribute to 20 trailblazing Asian American men and women whose accomplishments have created role models for this and future generations.

In the past, I’ve reviewed books that are part of Immedium’s Chinese Zodiac series so I was eager to see what this 128-page biography compilation would be like. I was not disappointed. The other good news is that this is the second book of the duology, the first was Awesome Asian Americans published in 2020.

 

More Awesome Asian Americans int1 Actor Activist George Takei
Interior art from More Awesome Asian Americans written by Phil Amara and Oliver Chin and illustrated by Juan Calle, Immedium ©2022.

 

Of the 10 men and 10 women featured (for a total of 20 chapters), each bio sheds light on an important individual whether athlete or activist, author or actor. Kids can choose to read this paperback one bio at a time or sit down and immerse themselves in the impressive array of notable figures. While the book is described as a graphic novel, it’s more just a colorfully illustrated collection with vibrant full-page and spot art throughout that adds to the positive energy emanating from every profile page.

I like how the book was organized chronologically from oldest to youngest people. I also appreciated learning not only about Asian American luminaries such as I.M. Pei, Amy Tan, George Takei, Mira Nair, and Bruno Mars, but even more so about those who, though not household names, are outstanding in their fields. For example, I had no idea that Jensen Huang was responsible for a computer chip that revolutionized computer gaming making him a billionaire, or that Dr. Peter Tsai’s N95 mask was a life-saver during the pandemic due to “its technology.” I read in shock about humanitarian Channapha Khamvongsa’s harrowing childhood in Laos as a result of the secret series of U.S. bombings there to stop the rise of communism. I never knew that since “1973, UXOs [unexploded bombs] have harmed twenty thousand civilians, primarily children” and was what propelled Khamvongsa to create an NGO called Legacies of War to clean up the UXOs. Her campaigns have made the U.S. government commit millions toward the clean-up of the UXOs as she continues to work for the good of the Laotian community both in the U.S. and globally.

 

More Awesome Asian Americans int2 Olympic Snowboarder Chloe Kim
Interior art from More Awesome Asian Americans written by Phil Amara and Oliver Chin and illustrated by Juan Calle, Immedium ©2022.

 

I am happy to recommend More Awesome Asian Americans because it honestly brings to the fore the lives and accomplishments of 20 extraordinary people who persevered despite facing challenges from war, poverty, business failures, their Asian heritage, and in some cases their gender. The book serves as a motivating and inspiring read for any teen who has ever considered giving up when the going gets tough.

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A is for Asian American for APIDA Heritage Month

 

A IS FOR ASIAN AMERICAN:
An Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Alphabet

Written by Virginia Loh-Hagan

Illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop

(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 6-10)

 

 

A is for Asian American cover kids with famous apida figures.

 

Kids will learn what an important role the AIPDA community has played in our country’s history and continues to play today in America after reading A is for Asian American written by Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop. Also referred to as AAPI, APIDA Heritage Month was created to include Desi (South Asian) with both serving to honor and celebrate the contributions, culture, experiences, and traditions of the over “24 million people in the United States who fall under the umbrella of AAPI.”

 

A is for Asian American int1 family grandparents
Interior art from A is for Asian American written by Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

This nonfiction picture book begins with a helpful time line of “Little-Known Milestones” and in 40 pages presents readers with an engaging format. It introduces a rhyme for each alphabet letter, appealing to the youngest of the target age range. “J is for Japanese Anime. There are all kinds of anime,/which started in Japan./All around the world,/you’ll find anime fans.” Alongside the expressive art and poem is an expository description of the topic, in this instance, anime. Since my whole family enjoys anime, I loved reading about its origins in the 1960s and how mainstream it’s become in America.

Some alphabet letters fill an entire spread (M is for Movements where social change is discussed; W is for Writers highlighting contributions made to all forms of literature and journalism), while others are divided (see art above for letters F and G). The S page focuses on Saturday schools where weekend classes offer “language classes and classes covering topics such as dance, music, art, crafts, and other cultural activities,” in order to connect children with the country of their heritage.

 

A is for Asian American int2 M is for Movements
Interior spread from A is for Asian American written by Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

In addition to homing in on a variety of interesting subjects—Boba (Bubble) Tea and Korean Wave should resonate with a lot of young readers—A is for Asian American highlights accomplishments by APIDAs from the first Asian American woman to earn her pilot’s license in 1932 to the first Asian American to walk in space in 1985. The letter X details how Bruce Lee was a pioneer in promoting his mixed martial arts skills in films helping other martial arts grow in popularity. What a surprise to learn that President Theodore Roosevelt became America’s first brown belt taught by Japan’s judo master Yamashita Yoshitsugu!

And no book about Asian Americans would be complete without calling attention to the Chinese immigrants who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad under often harsh conditions yet ultimately refused citizenship; nor those of Japanese ancestry, about 120,000, who were unjustly sent to incarceration camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. Loh-Hagan’s writing is straightforward but topics are shared sensitively and are age appropriate.

At the start, an author’s note from Loh-Hagan states her goal of raising awareness of Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans. She also mentions the sad and alarming increase in anti-Asian hate since the pandemic and stresses the need to “learn more so we can do more.” Back matter features “definitions and words, and listing of important holidays with corresponding activities.” I hope this book helps children appreciate the myriad ways in which Asian Americans contribute to our country and make it a better place. Reading A is for Asian American provides kids with an important introduction to all aspects of Asian American life past and present and will no doubt prompt them to delve further into specific subjects. When teaching diversity-centered and cultural awareness curricula, teachers and librarians would benefit from all the information shared in this picture book as well.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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