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.
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.
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.