May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time set aside to honor and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
On March 28, 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress amended the original designation and expanded the observance to a month. The following year, President George H.W. Bush made it official, and AAPI Heritage received a month-long observance.
In keeping with this year’s theme, “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity,” there are some amazing AAPI middle-grade authors who are leading the way to a more inclusive world of books for young readers and a greater understanding of the joys, struggles, triumphs, and accomplishments of the AAPI community in America. Let’s shine an OhMG! spotlight on four authors who are leading the way in making sure middle-grade books are representative of the AAPI community.
Ellen Oh is a writer of children’s books. Some of her books have won awards from organizations and people who are not related to her. Ellen used to be a lawyer and an adjunct college instructor before realizing that it was all very boring and she enjoyed writing books much more. She is the author of the middle grade novels Finding Junie Kim, The Dragon Egg Princess, and The Spirit Hunters trilogy (Spirit Hunters, Island of Monsters, and Something Wicked), and the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series (Prophecy, Warrior, and King). She is the editor of the middle grade anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and the YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. Ellen is also a founding member of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature.
Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including the 2022 Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard and the NYT bestseller A Long Walk to Water. Her most recent title is The One Thing You’d Save, a collection of linked poems. Linda Sue is the founder and curator of Allida Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. She serves on the advisory boards of We Need Diverse Books and the Rabbit hOle museum project, and created the kiBooka website, www.kibboka.com, to highlight children’s books created by the Korean diaspora. Visit her website at www.lindasuepark.com; follow her on Twitter @LindaSuePark.
Kelly Yang is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of FINALLY SEEN, NEW FROM HERE, the FRONT DESK series (“One of the 30 Most Influential Children’s Books Of All Time” -BookRiot), including FRONT DESK, THREE KEYS, and ROOM TO DREAM, KEY PLAYER, and TOP STORY, YES WE WILL, and young adult novels PARACHUTES and PRIVATE LABEL. FRONT DESK is Kelly’s award-winning middle grade debut novel about a 10 year old Chinese American immigrant girl who manages the front desk of a motel while her parents clean the rooms. FRONT DESK was awarded the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal, was the 2019 Global Read Aloud, and was named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a NPR Best Book of the Year, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.
Waka is a Stanford graduate with a B.A. in International Relations and a Master’s in Secondary Education. While I Was Away (Quill Tree/HarperCollins 2021) is her debut novel. Dream, Annie, Dream (Quill Tree/HarperCollins 2022) is her first work of historical fiction. In addition to writing middle-grade stories, she enjoys writing screenplays. She wrote and co-directed the short film Double Tap (Official Selection, 2018 DC Shorts and Portland Film Festivals) and her feature-length screenplays (comedies, rom coms, & animated features) have been 2nd-rounders at AFF, placed in the semifinals of PAGE, and quarterfinals of Screencraft writing competitions.
Read more about the importance of AAPI representation in middle grade literature in Waka T. Brown’s 2022 WNDMG Guest Post right here at the Mixed-Up Files.