May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
According to the 2010 US Census, there are 17.3 million people of Asian descent in the country, representing the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. Visit asianpacificheritage.gov for a wealth of resources from the Library of Congress.
So, what does Asian Pacific American Heritage Month have to do with YA literature? Quite a bit: the growth rate of the Asian population in the US means there’s an increasing number of young readers of Asian descent. What are they reading? Are they finding books and characters that reflect their cultural identities?
Happily, I’m seeing an increasing number of titles that feature Asian or Asian-American characters or settingsâ€”but we still have a ways to go. I interviewed author Cindy Pon to get her perspective on the representation of Asian and Asian-American cultures in YA literature.
Cindy is the author of two adventure-filled YA fantasy novels inspired by ancient China: Silver Phoenix, named one of the Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth by Booklist in 2009, and its sequel, Fury of the Phoenix. Cindy is also an accomplished Chinese brush painter and is one of the co-founders of Diversity in YA, a website and book tour created to bring awareness to the importance of diverse stories in young adult literature. Learn more about her on her website.
How does the representation of Asian and Asian-American culture in YA literature today compare to the choices on the bookshelves when you were growing up?