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Asian-American protagonists in YA fiction

In compiling this list, my goal was comprehensiveness, *not* to create a list of recommended books. In other words, just because a book is on this list does not mean I’m recommending it.

This list includes recent immigrants, hapa characters, graphic novels, books by non-Asian American authors, and books with multiple narrators. YA fiction only; no children’s books, no biographies, no YA books in which an Asian-American teen is an important part of the book but not the main character/narrator (except, as noted, when a book has mulitple narrators, and one of them is Asian-American).

I’m sure this list is not complete, so let me know what I missed. Or if you think a book shouldn’t be on this list, I’d love to hear about it, too.

Year of the Horse by Justin Allen
The Poison Apples by Lily Archer
Samurai Girl series by Carrie Asai

Celebrity Skin by Liane Bonin
Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos
Tell Us We’re Home by Marina Budhos
All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Marc Hempel, and Sonny Liew
American Eyes: New Asian-American Short Stories for Young Adults edited by Lori Carlson
She’s So Money by Cherry Cheva
Bitter Melon by Cara Chow
Love, Inc. by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
Subway Girl
by P.J. Converse
Children of the River
by Linda Crew
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani
Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani
Fresh of the Boat by Melissa de la Cruz
The Painted Boy by Charles de Lint

Hiroshima Dreams by Kelly Easton
Love Stories #8: The Language of Love by Kate Emburg
Sophomore Undercover by Ben Esch

Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda

Shadow of the Dragon by Sherry Garland
Now and Zen (S.A.S.S.) by Linda Gerber

Split Screen by Brent Hartinger
Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley
Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
1001 Cranes by Naomi Hirahara
Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

Paper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold

Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim
Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

What I Meant… by Marie Lamba
Gothic Lolita by Dakota Lane
Finding My Voice by Marie G. Lee
Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee
The Great Call of China (S.A.S.S.) by Cynthea Liu
Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
Roots and Wings by Many Ly

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (okay, I’m not sure how much the American part applies, since does it really, technically take place in the US? or the country that was formerly the US? Maybe we’ll find out in the sequel.)
Possess by Gretchen McNeil
Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
The War Between the Classes by Gloria Miklowitz
Beacon Hill Boys by Ken Mochizuki

The Fold by An Na
A Step from Heaven by An Na
Wait for Me by An Na
April and the Dragon Lady by Lensey Namioka
Mismatch by Lensey Namioka

Sweet Valley High #50: Out of Reach by Francine Pascal
Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover by Mitali Perkins
First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins
Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong) by Carrie Rosten
Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury
How to Salsa in a Sari by Dona Sarkar
Tangled Threads by Pegi Deitz Shea
Gateway by Sharon Shinn
Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith
Finding My Hat by John Son
The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Borderline by Allan Stratton

Orchards by Holly Thompson

Black Mirror by Nancy Werlin
Seeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong

Name Me Nobody by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Exclusively Chloe by J. A. Yang
Girls for Breakfast by David Yoo
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before by David Yoo
Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Last updated April 2012.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2008 9:27 am

    Hey folks,

    Thanks so much for including my novel WHAT I MEANT… on your list. So many great books on there!

    Also, love your blog design (I have the same one…).


  2. March 26, 2009 5:10 pm

    You might also add SPLIT SCREEN by Brent Hartinger. It’s a YA novel written in two halves, each narrated by a different narrator: one is an Asian American bisexual teen girl, Min. This is the third book in a series about Min and her friends who form a gay-straight alliance (in THE GEOGRAPHY CLUB). It’s also distinguished by the fact that Min is the only bisexual Asian American teen character I can think of. Great list!

  3. January 11, 2010 2:28 am

    A great list. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that you have forgotten.

  4. October 18, 2010 4:15 am

    I’m honored to see PAPER DAUGHTER among all these good books. Thank you!

  5. April 25, 2012 8:19 am

    Would love it if you’d add my latest book to the list (Cat Girl’s Day Off). As an Asian-American, was so happy to see this list! I’ve got some new books to check out!

  6. Kimberly permalink
    July 22, 2012 9:51 am

    Not sue if this counts, but Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee. The narrator is young, but her voice better fits YA than children fiction.

    • July 30, 2012 10:51 pm

      I consider Millicent Min a children’s book, which is why it’s not on the list.

  7. October 17, 2013 8:27 pm

    A great list. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that you have forgotten.

  8. robert chapman permalink
    April 18, 2016 4:38 pm

    ww2 airmen get forced down in china, They are forced to go to a temple where they and the japanese with them are transported to an alternate earth where magic rules. Not sure of the author or # of books, but I remember 2 at least. possible YA author


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