Bookist: Asian Women’s History Through YA Fiction

March is Women’s History Month, celebrated worldwide. In the past two years, I’ve taken a look at history in Britain and history in the US. At the time, I didn’t view this as a series of posts, but I admit that I love learning about history, especially through the eyes of women. So this year, I’m taking a look at history through the eyes of Asian women.

Mulan from Once Upon a Time

Ancient World to 1099: Major Events Include
Paper was invented, Buddhism emerged, advances in math (zero and decimals), oldest book was produced, paper money was invented by the Chinese Government, Chinese use gunpowder in warfare, Nam-Viet ruled for more than 1000 years by the Han Dynasty in China, Silk Road, Alexander the Great reaches India, India and the Roman empire trade, Hinduism emerges, Constantine founds New Rome, Ottoman Empire begins, and Great Wall of China was constructed.

Books Include:
Spirit’s Princess by Esther Friesner: A shamaness predicts great things for Himiko, the daughter of a chieftain, who will one day rule Japan using her strength and her love for her people.

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey:  A retelling of the tale of Mulan – the girl who took her father’s place in the army in disguise.

1100-1800: Major Events Include
Genghis Khan was born, end of the Crusades, Marco Polo reaches China, Great Wall of China strengthened, Ivan the Terrible crowned first Czar of Russia, East Indies companies are formed for trading, US begins trading with China, Japan restricts contact with the outside world, Taj Mahal is built, Britain dominates India, Peter the Great creates the Russian Empire, Missionary develops dictionary of Vietnamese script increasing both literacy and Christianity, Catherine the Great rules Russia, French conquer South-East Asia, Magellan reaches the Philliphines, and the Dutch East India trading company goes bankrupt

Books Include:
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli: A Chinese Cinderella tale where Xing-Xing is forced to take care of her stepsister. Her step-mother had her sister’s feet bound in order to make a more advantageous marriage. Xing-Xing worries about her own future as she takes care of the household.

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang: More than anything else, Princess Emmajin wishes to serve in her grandfather’s army. When he hears her desire, he gives her the task of getting to know the foreign visitor and learn more about him and his country. The more Princess Emmajin talks with Marco Polo, the more her ideas about the world change.

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson: (2011 Best Fiction for YA) In precolonial India, two stepsisters struggle to make ends meet after the murder of their father. Tana and Diribani meet a goddess by the water well who showers them both with a gift. When Diribani speaks, diamonds and flowers fall from her mouth, but when Tana speaks, snakes a toads fall out of her mouth in this fairy tale.

1801-1945: Major Events Include

Victoria proclaimed Empress of India, Boxer Rebellion happens in China, US drops 2 atomic bombs on Japan, Czar Nicholas II and his family are assassinated, Communist Revolution in China, Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Crimean War, WWI, Ruso-Japanese War, Lenin takes control in Russia, WWII, Stalin rules, Russia becomes the USSR, Perry enters Japan -demanding that the country trades with the US, Japan rules Korean Peninsula for 35 years, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, French-British treaty grants Thailand independence, Vietnam united under Prince Aguyen Anh, France takes control of Vietnam until France is defeated by Germany – afterwards Japan controls Vietnam, and the Opium Wars

Books Include:
In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap:  Molly’s been unfairly dismissed from her maid’s position. She has nowhere to go, until she hears about a nursing opportunity. Molly’s determined to make Miss Nightingale’s staff, even though she doesn’t have much experience. When the staff goes to help those soldiers in Crimea, she tags along. Although the work is tough and the conditions even harder, Molly knows that she’s making a difference.

Ties that Bind, Ties that Break by Lensey Namioka: Ailin refuses to bind her feet. as a result, her intended husband breaks his agreement for their marriage. Her family does not wish to support her; she’s forced to make her own way. Armed with knowledge, an opportunity presents itself which will change her future.

Anastasia’s Secret by Susanne Dunlap: Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov leads the life of a princess. When she’s twelve, she meets a boy who tells her the truth about life outside the palace walls. Their relationship remains a secret through the years as everything changes for Anastasia and her family.

Lost Crown by Sarah Miller: As Imperial Russia dies, the four Romanov sisters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia share their stories of the last few months.

Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges: Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg hides a deadly secret; she can raise the dead. When she must use her curse to protect a member of the royal family, she finds herself caught in a deadly game.

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society by Adeline Yen Mah: (2000 Best Books for YA) After a fight with her stepmother, Ye Xian escapes her abusive home and seeks shelter with the Secret Dragon Society where she learns martial arts and other useful skills. The society uses their skills to keep China free from occupation during the second World War.

1946 – modern day: Major Events Include
India gains independence, India divides, Cultural Revolution in China, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Tokyo hosts the first Olympics in Asia, Gandhi becomes Prime Minister of India, Russian man is the first astronaut in space, the USSR collapses, Indira Gandhi (no relation) becomes the first Prime Minster in India and one of the first elected women to rule a nation, India’s population exceeds one billion, Pratibha Patil becomes the first female President of India, US uses military bases in Thailand during Vietnam War, Tienanmen Square rebellion, China regains Hong Kong from Britain, Indonesia gains independence, and Philippines gains independence from the US

Books Include:
Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford: Laura stays in Leningrad for her semester abroad during the Cold War. There she meets a boy, Alexei, who shows her his country. Their time together is coming to an end, but how can they leave each other?

Great Call of China by Cynthea Liu: Cece was born in China, but adopted at the age of two. When the opportunity arises for her to travel to China, she jumps at the chance to learn more about her heritage and maybe to find out more about her own family. When she arrives, nothing turns out as she expected.

Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet by Kashmira Sheth: Jeeta’s sisters are getting married, much to their mother’s delight. Jeeta isn’t interested in arranged marriages or traditional life. She longs for a more modern future with college and finding her own husband. Can she convince her parents to allow her some freedom?

Now and Zen by Linda C. Gerber: Nori wasn’t expecting Japan to be overwhelming. She wanted more country life and less city life. With her features, everyone assumes she’s from Japan, not a naïve Japanese-American tourist. Can she enjoy learning about her heritage while pretending to be someone else?

Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan: Chu Ju overhears her parents talking about sending her baby sister to the orphanage because they already have a daughter. With two girls, they won’t be able to try for a boy. She decides to spare her sister and runs away from home instead.

Sold by Patricia McCormick:(2007 Best Books for YA  and 2010 Popular Paperbacks for YA) and When a monsoon destroys her families crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather tells her she must get a job to support her family. The thirteen year old’s dismayed to learn she’s been sold into prostitution. Can she survive this new twist in her life?

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins: Jazz isn’t thrilled to learn she’ll be spending the summer where her mother grew up in India. At first she’s completely uninterested in learning more about her heritage, but as the summer progresses, India captures her heart.

Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman: Veda loves dancing the classical dance form in India. Her world crumbles when an accident forces her to the sidelines due to a leg amputation. She’s not about to let that stop her though.

Road Home by Ellen Emerson White: Becky’s spent the last year in Vietnam, serving as nurse during the war. Nothing prepared her for the horrors of war.  When she finally returns home, she’s changed and nothing feels the same.

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

One thought on “Bookist: Asian Women’s History Through YA Fiction”

  1. Jennifer, thanks for some great suggestions. Next year I hope you will add my MG historical fiction, The Last Cherry Blossom. Based on my mother’s experience as a 12 year old girl during the last year of World War II in Hiroshima.

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