Graphic novels and comics are a medium that has regularly been part of my reading life for the past few years. It’s a medium that I love reading, and one that I think everyone should try. It’s also the one medium that seems to help the best when I’m stuck in a reading rut and need to that extra injection of energy to get me out of it.
In this updated recommendations list for graphic novels and comics, I’ve also included some illustrated children’s books in the additional recommendation section. While I don’t read any books aimed at young children, it is an area of publishing that has not seen an increase in protagonists of colour in recent years. I’ve included some additional links to these illustrated children’s books as well.
Here is the link to my original 2018 post on recommendations for graphic novels & comics written by AAPI authors: link.
Again, these are my recommendations for books that I’ve read and/or books that I want to read and are in no way a comprehensive list of the number of English-language novels written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry.
Some websites and posts that I recommend checking out if your are looking for even more recommendations for books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are:
- Lit CelebrAsian
- The Quiet Pond
- PEN America
- Ruru Read [currently under construction]
- Book Riot
- School Library Journal
- “AAPI Illustrated Children’s Books” from Pragmatic Mom
So let’s get to my recommendations:
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Some of the most enduring friendships can begin in the most unexpected ways. For Christine and Moon, their friendship could not have been more unexpected. They could not be more different from each other – where Moon is loud, brash and artistic, Christine is quiet, modest, and unsure of herself. The only thing that the two have in common is that they are both Chinese American. Slowly, the two of them form a friendship as they begin to discover they share an interest in many of the same things, forming a bond between the two of them that neither has ever had before.
The friendship between Christine and Moon is the heart of this novel. It’s a sweet story about friendship, loyalty, discovery, and a look into the Chinese diaspora in America. The book is very much in tune with Wang’s previous works, which means to say that it does not disappoint.
Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn, Art by Nicole Goux
Cassandra Cain has lived her entire life in the shadows. Trained to be the ultimate assassin from birth, Cassandra has never had a say in her destiny. But what if she wants something more? What if she doesn’t want to be a supervillain? Cassandra is forced to reckon with her life’s purpose when her world comes tumbling down – setting her on a whole new path. When her father’s destructive plan is revealed, Cassandra will have to step out of the shadows and conquer the voices telling her that she can never be a hero.
Sarah Kuhn has a way with writing young women finding their voices and power and becoming the superheroes they are meant to be (check out her Heroine Complex series) and she does just that with Cassandra Cain in Shadow of the Batgirl. Between Kuhn’s writing and the Nicole Goux unique art style, this novel brings Batgirl to a whole new set of readers.
I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib
Through Gharib’s unique illustrative style, she brings to life her story of growing up in America as a daughter of immigrants. In the panels of the novel we see her on a journey to discover who she is and the struggle, one has when trying to find one’s own identity while holding onto her Filipino and Egyptian customs and values and trying to fit into the American way of life. This graphic memoir is a love letter to immigrants who came to America, leveraging their future and the future of their children for a better way of life.
Gharib’s memoir is thoughtful, allowing us to look through the window of her life through her teenage antics, crushes on skater boys, and earnest questions about identity and culture being a first-generation American. It’s a tribute to her story and the story of millions of immigrants living in America.
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
In this funny and touching graphic memoir, Jacob tackles the difficult conversations and questions revolving race, sex, love, and family that occur in so many immigrant households today as a first-generation American. She tries to answer the questions her six-year-old son has about living in a country with a man like the 45th President as commander-in-chief, she asks her parents about love from her parents who moved to the U.S one month into their arranged marriage and looks into her own past growing up as a brown-skinned girl in post-9/11 America.
Good Talk is not a purely illustrated memoir; it’s a mixed medium memoir combining the author’s illustrations and photographs. The structure of the memoir is also something that I haven’t seen in awhile – each section of the memoir are conversations that the author has with the different people in her life, from her son to her parents to her in-laws. It’s a very unique memoir that will make you laugh and touch your heart.
City of Secrets by Victoria Ying
Due out in July of this year, City of Secrets is a middle-grade graphic novel detailing the adventure of Ever Barnes. Ever is an orphan living in the city’s Switchboard Operating Facility that connects the city of Oskar. When the building owner’s daughter, Hannah comes to visit she immediately sparks a friendship with Ever and begins a journey to protect the secrets hidden within the Switchboard facility.
This is a fun adventure-filled novel with twists and turns perfect for young and old readers. The friendship that develops between Ever and Hannah is one of the main gears that pushes the story forward. Definitely keep your eyes peeled for it when it debuts later this year.
Additional recommendations (including some children’s picture books):
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, Art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Monstress series by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker
Shadow of the BatgWar of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas by Greg Pak, Art by Gang-Hyuk Lim
Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê, Art by Andie Tong
Future Fight Firsts by Alyssa Wong, Art by Alé Garza, Jon Lam, Kevin Libranda, & Gang Hyuk Lim
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, & Steven Scott, Art by Harmony Becker
[Children’s Book] Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Adventure by Eva Chen, Art by Derek Desierto
[Children’s Book] A Different Pond by Bao Phi, Art by This Bui
[Children’s Book] No Kimchi for Me! by Aram Kim
[Children’s Book] They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki
[Children’s Book] Drawn Together by Minh Lê, Art by Dan Santat
I hope these recommendations help you find your next book written by an AAPI author. Look out for the next post on book recommendations for poetry written by AAPI authors. It will be my last post featured in my updated series of books recommendations written by AAPI authors.
Thanks for reading!