Historical Fiction: Asian Pacific American Heritage (Grades 7-12)

The genre of historical fiction offers a dramatic study of history at an emotional level. It makes the past come to life and engages students as they begin to connect events with individuals. The commonplace details and little known facts of history that permeate historical fiction will not only surprise and engage readers, but inspire questions and critical thinking.

Our Asian Pacific American Heritage historical fiction list features stories about young people coming of age against historical backdrops, including the Han Dynasty, the Mongul Empire, Colonial India, and China's Cultural Revolution.

A Million Shades of Gray

Age Level: 12-14

Eleven-year-old Y'Tin is the youngest elephant trainer in his village. When the Vietcong invades, Y'Tin and his friend Y'Juen flee into the jungle where they care for a beloved elephant and search for relatives who survived the attack. Torn between his love for his animal and the lure of safety in Thailand, Y'Tin grapples with his future.

Aleutian Sparrow

Illustrated by: Evon Zerbetz
Age Level: 12-14

The Aleuts were dramatically affected by both Japanese and the American forces during World War II. How they were relocated from their small island in the Pacific and relocated to the coast of Alaska is hauntingly told by Vera, a young Aleutian/Caucasian girl.

Bamboo People

Age Level: 12-14

While his father is in prison for treating a leader of the democracy movement, 15-year-old Chiko is drafted into the Burmese military. Trained to fight the rebel Karenni people, Chiko soon finds himself at the mercy of a young Karenni rebel fighter whose village was attacked by Burmese soldiers. Will the two remain enemies?

Child of the Owl

Age Level: 12-14

Set in the mid-1960s, 12-year-old Casey knows little about her Chinese background and only identifies herself as an American. When she moves to Chinatown in San Francisco to live with her maternal grandmother, she feels alienated and isolated, though she gradually comes to accept and understand her Chinese background. Written for young adolescents, this award-winning book is part of the Golden Mountain Chronicles.

Climbing the Stairs

Age Level: 14-16

Though it's unusual for a girl in colonial India, 15-year-old Vidya's father supports her dream of attending college. When her father — an advocate of nonviolence — is severely injured in a protest against British rule, Vidya not only loses her best advocate, but she's forced to live with her very traditional grandfather. Vidya's quest for independence mirrors that of her country.

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam

Age Level: 12-14

Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam. There, he's going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant -- and everyone else who didn't think he was cut out for war -- wrong.  When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn't so sure about this new owner. He's going to have to prove himself to her before she's going to prove herself to him.

Daughter of Xanadu

Age Level: 12-14

In 13th Century Mongolia, Kublai Khan's 15-year old granddaughter Emmajin dreams of becoming a brave warrior — not a wife. While dodging potential suitors, she's dispatched by Khan to investigate the newly arrived Westerner, Marco Polo. Emmajin befriends Polo and the two fight dragons, lions, and enemy soldiers on a journey across China. This story has something for everyone: adventure, intrigue, romance, and history.

Eyes of the Emperor

Age Level: 14-16

Japanese Americans in Hawaii during World War II identified themselves as Americans, but their fellow enlisted soldiers didn't necessarily see them that way. In this historical novel, Eddy and his friends join the Army to defend their country, only to be the victims of vicious discrimination by their commanders.

House of the Red Fish

Age Level: 12-14

Life for 14-year old Tomi Nakaji and other Japanese-Americans living on the Hawaiian island of Oahu has changed radically since the bombing of Pearl Harbor the previous year. He confronts violence, despair but ultimately finds hope in this gripping sequel to Under the Blood-Red Sun (1994).

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade

Age Level: 9-12

From the day a horse stepped on her tiny foot and crippled her, Oyuna's life has been intertwined with these animals. Now a grandmother, she tells her young granddaughter of her escapades riding in Kublai Khan's military and her role in saving the Khan's herd of white horses.

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

Age Level: 12-14

This semi-autobiographical novel takes place during the Chinese cultural revolution. Ling's parents are doctors, but when Mao comes to power, they are accused of being part of the "bourgeoisie." Ling must be brave and smart during this time of upheaval.

Rice Without Rain

Age Level: 14-16

When Jinda comes to trust the outsiders from Bangkok, her life in rural Thailand is changed forever. Poetically told and thematically sophisticated, this riveting novel provides a glimpse into the Thailand of the 1970s.

Weedflower

Age Level: 12-14

Sumiko and her family are shipped to a Japanese internment camp in one of the hottest places in California after the events of Pearl Harbor. She was raised in California on a flower farm and now instead of flowers, she must endure dust storms regularly. In her old life she was accustomed to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Now they find themselves on an Indian reservation and are as unwelcome there as anywhere. She finally finds a friend in one Mohave boy. There they do their best to rebuild their lives and create a community.

When My Name Was Keoko

Age Level: 12-14

Siblings Sun-hee and Tae-yul take turns narrating this story of Japan's occupation of Korea during WWII. As the occupation intensifies, Koreans are forced to change their names and forbidden from speaking their language, and members of the Kim family struggle to retain their personal and cultural identities.