Exploring Asian American Books for High School

As school curriculums gradually become more diverse, educators seek to incorporate literature that represents the experiences of all their students. Asian Americans have a long history in the United States, and their presence and experiences are an important part of America’s ethnic and cultural fabric. In this blog post, we explore some of the best Asian American books that high school students can read and learn from.

Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee

Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee is a powerful exploration of racial identity and belonging. The book follows the story of Henry Park, a Korean American who is struggling to reconcile his identity as a Korean American with his career as a spy for the US government. This novel deals with themes of assimilation, cultural assimilation, and isolation. Native Speaker is a thought-provoking book that can help students explore the complexities of identity, race, and power.

A Step from Heaven by An Na

A Step from Heaven by An Na is a heartwarming, yet poignant coming-of-age novel that follows a Korean immigrant girl named Young Ju and her family, as they adjust to life in America in the 1980s. The novel explores the struggles of adapting to a new culture, as well as the complex family dynamics that arise as Young Ju grapples with the expectations of her traditional Korean family, and her desire to assimilate into American culture. A Step from Heaven is a great book for high school students to read as it deals with the common themes of identity, belonging, and the culture transition that many experience.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novel that tells three stories. One story follows the mythical Monkey King in China, another follows a Chinese-American teenager’s journey of self-acceptance, while the third story tells of Chin-Kee, who embodies every racist stereotype about Asian Americans. This graphic novel is a fusion of humor and a deeper exploration of identity and assimilation, especially from the “othering” perspective that many Asian Americans face.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is a classic literary masterpiece that explores the dynamics of four Chinese American immigrant mothers and their four daughters. The novel explores the themes of cultural identity, assimilation, and family relationships. This is an excellent book for high school students as it teaches about the struggles of immigrant families, and the tensions that arise between the first and second generation as they navigate between cultures.

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston is a memoir of a Chinese American girl growing up in California, told through a blend of family folklore and personal memory. The book explores the intersecting themes of gender, race, identity, and storytelling. Through Kingston’s narrative, students can learn about how they could integrate their own family stories into their personal experience, and how storytelling can be a stepping stone towards healing and understanding.


In conclusion, these five books are an excellent starting point for educators and students pursuing the study of Asian American literature. These powerful novels explore themes of identity, family, race, and assimilation in ways that are both thought-provoking and inspiring. By studying Asian American books, students can gain a broader and deeper understanding of America’s multicultural and diverse society.

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