Comfort #OwnVoices reads

It’s been a very tough year and I feel lost every other day. So it’s been nice to read books that are comfortable but still have a challenging and persevering feel. Here are five that I read recently that happen to be #OwnVoices, written by Asian American and Native American authors.

My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva is a realistic MG story with the Drug War in the background. (See Patron Saints of Nothing for a powerful YA telling of what’s going on in the Philippines.) In it, Sab (short for Sabrina) sees a black butterfly, an omen that she or someone close to her is about to die. She figures she only has one week left to live and decides to find out why her sister has refused to speak to her dad. Despite being a MG novel, My Fate manages to look into colonialism, colorism, politics and free speech. I have a craving for Filipino stories and I’m so glad Villanueva is writing them for a younger audience.

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan is a translation of a Hans Christian Andersen Award-winning Chinese novel. I read it in 2017 and it was one of the books that started my down the reading journey that I am now on. The background is the Cultural Revolution, which brutalized the lives of artists, intellectuals and the middle-upper class. Sunflower is the daughter of an artist and she gets sort of adopted into Bronze’s family. The story is heartbreaking but so, so good. It is one of my favorites.

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is a fluffy, romantic story about a Japanese American girl visiting her grandparents in Japan during spring break. Her quest is to find herself, and she does that along with meeting a cute pre-med boy who dresses up as a mochi mascot. This story is exactly what I needed during a time when we couldn’t travel or feel even very romantic at all. I love how the anime vibes: how clueless Kimi is and how caring and committed Akira is. Read this for a fun getaway!

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell is such a special book. The author passed away before she could complete it, and she gave it to her friend to complete the draft. All the women who helped bring this book to life–author, coauthor, editor, cover illustrator–are Native, even though they are from different tribes. The story is based on the author’s childhood, moving from the Grande Ronde in Oregon to Los Angeles due to tribe termination. It literally forcefully removed their identity, and the Umpqua members became the walking dead. It also occurred during the Civil Rights era, when there was racism toward Black Americans. This book should be paired with I Can Make This Promise. The US government really deleted every aspect of Native American life from this country and it is criminal. I’m so glad Native writers are writing about their families and presenting a more accurate picture of their lives.

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park is about a half-Chinese, half white girl, Hanna, who moves to the frontier with her father. Her mother was a seamstress and passed on the skill of sewing to her. Hanna encounters racism at school in the 1890s, and unfortunately the comments she hears are not all that different from the comments an Asian American girl might hear today. Park wrote Prairie Lotus as an alternative to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, which was racist toward Native Americans. This book made me think of how many untold stories there are, and what kind of images we conjure when we think of an era.

In review, the protagonists in these books faced deep challenges, but I still found it comforting to hear their stories because I am experiencing a deeply challenging time myself. Thank you to #OwnVoices books for making me feel seen.

History and fantasy

 

img_09801. Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully by Jeffrey Brown – I think the Star Wars character are adorable, and I love the illustrations too. Middle school sure is tough whatever planet you are on -_- and bullies are always lurking around the corner! :O

2. When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park – Linda Sue Park is one of my favorite historical fiction authors for kids, and I really do learn history from her novels. I was interested in the Japanese occupation of Korea because I watched a drama on the same period called Chicago Typewriter, which I loved. I like the fear of being caught and quiet patriotism that people under occupation show every day. It stood out to me that their uncle can only be a revolutionary because he is single and has no family, just like the resistance leader in the drama. A man cannot risk his life fighting for his country if he has to also provide and be there for his family. More books about resistance please!

3. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata – This is my favorite book! I loooved it. I love stories about farmers, apparently. It was just so awesome to read about Summer and her summer 😛 If I had to spend my summer cooking for farm workers, taking care of my brother and grandparents, and end up having to drive a combine myself, I would probably go crazy but I would still do it. It is not too different from my life and basically Summer’s story is super relatable to me ❤ .

4. Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist by Liz Kessler – Mermaid stories are my guilty pleasure 🐟🐠. Neptune and Aurora were in love! One of the things I like about this series is the twist, where it’s a merman and a human woman instead of a mermaid and a man. Hehe.

5. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin – I did not finish this book even though I really wanted to. It was ever referred to in a Japanese manga 5 centimeters Per Second! I just could not get through it. Maybe I need to read a graphic novel version of this book. I think it would be a lot more exciting.

Picture this

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The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation – The story is about how the Princess can’t relax on her vacation because her monster alarm keeps ringing. I can relate to it because I dream and think about work/school all the time!!

A Long Walk to Water – I like Linda Sue Park’s writing and this story was good because it’s about a part of history that is not familiar to me. It’s set in Sudan and intertwines two characters, Salva in the 1990s and Nya in 2008. All the hardships that they endured just to get to the next day is astounding. 😦 I’d like to read more survival stories.

The Color of Water – This is the second book in a trilogy. It’s about a young girl, Ehwa, growing into a young woman. In this book, she develops a crush and learns more about her body. I relate to it and I wonder how a man would feel reading this story.

California Dreaming – I read this book because I listen to Cass Elliot! I thought it was so cool that there was a graphic novel about her life. However, it is very sad too 😦 The ending! She had a hard life and the relationships within The Mamas and the Papas sound so messy and painful. 😦 Which makes the happy music they produce kind of forlorn now.