Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month with #ELKReads

By the Elkridge Branch staff

It seems especially vital to raise up and celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) this year, during the increased violence and harassment faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the United States. Racist attacks fueled by fear and hatred, especially surrounding the pandemic, have been on the rise in 2020 and 2021, including here in Howard County. We must all stand together against hatred and work to protect and honor the rich cultural heritage of the AAPI community. Reading “own voices” stories about the life experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is a good starting point for increasing our understanding and appreciation of the AAPI community. See our suggestions aimed at readers of all ages, and keep an eye on our Facebook page for more titles as well.

The collage includes: Good Night Friend by Nidhi Chanani, against a blue background, a white circle shows an illustration of two children and some animals. Lift by Min Lê has a lush jungle with the word LIFT in all caps tilted across the center with a girl and her cat sitting in the doorway of the "I". The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin illustrative cover has soft drawings of a girl and her mom working in a garden. On the bottom of the collage: Toddler Two by Anastasia Suen shows two small children, one on a bicycle and one with a striped ball. Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet by Sanae Ishida has a watercolor painting of a bamboo stand with the title character.  Drawn Together by Minh Lê shows a young boy hugging an older man with all sorts of imaginative images in the background.

For Little Kids

Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet: An Adventure with Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida

Will Chibi Samurai find a special pet just for him? Join the adventure in this second beautiful picture book in the three-part Little Kunoichi series. Meet all kinds of creatures familiar in Japanese culture throughout this playful tale, and find out more about Japanese animals and culture with special notes at the end of the story.

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat 

Where can an elevator take you? Join your little one on their adventure with Iris, a little girl who loves to press the elevator buttons to go up or down the building where she lives. After the button accidently breaks, Iris is able to save it from the trash, and the elevator button takes her on new adventures in her room.

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin  (also available as an eBook on CloudLibrary)

In this charming story about celebrating differences, a Chinese-American girl wishes for a garden of bright flowers instead of one full of bumpy, ugly vegetables, but her mother assures her that “these are better than flowers.” Once it’s time to harvest, the whole neighborhood agrees that those ugly vegetables turn into the most delicious soup! A recipe at the end invites readers to try their hand at making their own tasty vegetable soup.

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar shows several characters in silhouette, including one holding the Indian flag, and one character above the title facing forward amidst a background of colorful flowers.  Cilla-Lee Jenkins:  Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan depicts a girl with raised arms in front of a door from which fantastical creatures are emerging, including a dinosaur and a unicorn.  Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung shows a blue fish in a fishbowl surrounded by goldfish.  Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence shows the title character holding a plate of mochi, dressed in a pink tutu and crown.  My Beijing:  Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun shows a character on a bike carrying a small child in front, with statuary, trees, and a building in the background.  Frazzled:  Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes by Booki Vivat shows a  frazzled-looking character in yellow pants and an orange shirt, reaching out in the direction of a gray cat.

For Big Kids:

Cilla-Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan

With a new baby sibling on the way, spunky eight-year-old Cilla will make sure her family can’t forget about her. She vows to become a famous bestselling memoirist before the baby arrives. Being both Chinese and Caucasian is an essential part of Cilla’s family and her life story. Sincerely touching and irresistibly funny, this is the first book in an excellent three-part series.

Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes by Booki Vivat

Abbie has big plans for the school year, such as running for class president. She’s also thrilled to have her own shiny new locker – that is, until she finds out she has to share it with someone else. Follow the frazzled life of Abbie Wu as she navigates the hazards of middle school in this fast-paced title filled with adventures and doodles.

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung

Chloe Cho has always wondered why her parents will NEVER talk about their lives in Korea before moving to the United States. Other people’s parents are thrilled when their kids ask questions about their lives, but Chloe’s parents just dodge and change the subject. As Chloe enters seventh grade, she is excited to learn that she will have a Korean American teacher who can finally help her learn more about her heritage, but what she learns is VERY different from what she imagined, leading to a whole different set of questions.

The cover of You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins depicts a woman dancer in muted pastel colors.  The cover of Frankly in Love by David Yoon is in stylized letters in shades of green, blue, and turquoise against a yellow background.  The cover of Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay shows a character in a black shirt against a peach background, with flames behind him and erupting from his two outstretched hands.  The cover of The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen depicts the main character, Tiến, wearing an oversized bomber jacket and holding a book that he is reading, against a background of a mermaid-like fairy tale character.  The cover of Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed depicts a girl against a pink floral background, holding a camera and pointing it at the viewer as she looks through the lens.  The cover of Almost American Girl by Robin Ha depicts the title character, a teenage Korean girl, walking into a classroom and holding books, turning back to look at the viewer, with students in desks all face-forward and looking at her.

For Teens:

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook on Libby/OverDrive)

Frank Li is a high school senior trying to balance his parents’ expectations of him as a first-generation Korean American, and their racism, with his own dreams and desires. He sets up an elaborate plan to start dating a white girl without his parents knowing but ends up finding his heart pulling him in a different direction. As he faces unexpected obstacles, Frank must figure out what is most important to him and how he can best help all those he loves.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (also available as an eBook on Libby/OverDrive)

Jay is preparing to graduate high school and attend the University of Michigan in the fall, but his plans take a turn when he learns that his Filipino cousin Jun was killed as part of the president’s war on drugs. With his family refusing to discuss what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines himself to find out the truth. In this captivating story, Jay has to work through more than he expected to find the full truth and his own peace.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook on OverDrive, and as an audiobook on CD)

In this sweeping novel, author Mitali Perkins draws on her own experiences as an immigrant to the United States to give readers a look into the life of one family across generations. Hear from alternating narrators in the Das family as they experience defining moments during their adolescences, spanning decades and continents. Each woman brings her own views and strengths to the story as she works to find her way through the challenges that face her.

The cover of They Called Us Enemy by George Takei shows young George in line behind his parents at a Japanese-American concentration camp during World War II, with a fence and an armed guard in the distance.  The cover of The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo shows a woman in elegant dress, lying on her side with her arm outstretched in front of her, with magenta flowers, green leaves, and glistening gold stars creating a muted, magical effect in the foreground.  The cover of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See shows a girl peering through several branches in the foreground of the picture, all in shades of orange and green.  The cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a black and white photograph of one person embracing another from behind.  The cover of L.A. Son:  My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi shows the author in an L.A. baseball cap, with newspapers plastering the walls behind him, pointing at the title of the book.  The cover of All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung shows a brown branch with four white blossoms against a purple background, with the branch weaving through the white lettering of the title.

For Adults:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook on CloudLibrary, and an eBook and an eAudiobook on Libby/OverDrive)

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a moving title about class, race, love, and the power of storytelling. Written in the form of a letter to his illiterate mom, Little Dog – our speaker – recounts his family’s history from before he was born, using it as a gateway to expose parts of his own life that his mother has never known. With a stunning rawness and grace to its prose, this is an intimate, striking portrait of the Vietnamese immigrant experience.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

In the Chinese community of 1890s Malaya, Li Lan, the 17-year-old daughter of a struggling merchant, accepts an offer from the wealthy Lim family to become a ghost bride to their recently deceased son, ensuring her a future of comfort and respect as the widow of a man she never knew. What she expects to be her uneventful new life takes an unexpected turn as she finds herself haunted by her ghost husband and drawn into the land of the dead. Hunted by vengeful spirits and assisted by creatures of legend, Li Lan must solve the mystery of her husband’s death and find her way back to the land of the living. By weaving together both history and mythology, Choo creates an enchanting and atmospheric fantasy adventure.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (also available as an eBook on OverDrive)

They Called Us Enemy is a graphic novel memoir written by famed Star Trek actor George Takei. Detailing his family’s internment during WW2, it explores the tough choices made by his parents during this dark time of sanctioned racism. Though he was just a child at the time, Mr. Takei’s insights explore his feelings of betrayal and injustice during this harsh chapter of American history.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!

Celebrate Black History Month with #ELKReads

by HCLS Elkridge staff

Black History Month has been observed during February in the United States since 1976, when it was first officially recognized by President Gerald Ford. Ford invited Americans to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” We invite you to join us in celebrating the talent of Black authors and honoring the history of Black Americans by taking a look at some of the titles selected below. You can find more on our website.

A collage of five titles. My Hair is a Garden features a young Black with hair flowing up from the top of her heard. I Am Perfectly Design has an illustration of a man and young boy seated on a park bench with people walking behind them. Child of the Civil Rights Movement shows a young girl in a blue dress holding a rainbow flag. Dream Big, Little One show rounded illustration of three Black women dressed for different professions. The King of Kindergarten has a pale green background and an oval shaped medallion with the portrait of a small child wearing a crown.

My Hair Is a Garden written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

When young MacKenzie is teased about her hair, she turns to her neighbor. Miss Tillie lavishes her with an abundance of wisdom, encouragement, and practical care that empowers the girl to take care of herself with love and skill. Like the beautiful garden Miss Tillie cultivates in her yard, MacKenzie’s beautiful Black hair is tended with love. The appreciation of self-care grows to an inspiring and powerful message of self-love. An afterword provides many specific techniques and recipes for caring for Black hair. 

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Also available as a Voxbook.

Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board: he’s finished his swimming lessons, passed his swim test, and is a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for. 

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colón 

Author Paula Young Shelton, daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, brings you along to her childhood experiences in Georgia during Jim Crow, in the heart of the civil rights movement. Shelton shares vivid memories of swimming with Martin Luther King Jr. and marching from Selma to Montgomery. Connect with your little one as you read this moving and poignant picture book. 

Collage of five titles. Young, Gift, and Black has a bright yellow background with green, red, and white decorations and two busts of Black men. Some Places More than Others shows a woman with a ponytail and a scarf walking trough a city. The Fierce 44 has a blue background and a handwritten list of the 44 people featured in the book. The Harlen Charade has the title on a sheet on a laundry line outside of fire escape. Ghost has a bright yellow cover, almost empty except for the the fi

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson

With a title that references the late Lorraine Hansberry’s phrase “young, gifted and black,” this exuberant collected biography is one readers won’t want to miss. Children are invited to explore one- and two-page vignettes of compelling figures in Black culture worldwide. Discover how their childhood dreams and experiences influenced their adult achievements. This book inspires the next generation to chase their dreams! 

The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World by the staff of The Undefeated

Get to know 44 of America’s most impressive heroes with this engrossing and beautifully illustrated collection of mini-biographies. With notable figures such as musician Jimi Hendrix and gymnast Simone Biles, and somewhat lesser-known figures like newspaper publisher Robert Abbott and dancer Alvin Ailey, this book exposes you to the brief histories of both household names and little-known heroes who influenced the world. 

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson. Also available as an eBook.

For her twelfth birthday, small-town girl Amara gets her wish to visit her father’s side of the family for the first time in Harlem, New York City. Looking for roots to her personal heritage as well as Black culture, Amara is surprised by how overwhelming it all is at first. Through earnest and heartfelt exploration, the help of her loving family, and a school assignment to gather family history, she comes to understand more about herself than she had imagined. Love, forgiveness, and connection shine through in this tender and moving coming-of-age story. 

Collage of five titles. The Black Kids features a Black face wearing sunglasses reflecting a tropical scene. A Phoenix First Must Burn shows the title overlaid a girl with a swirling pink dress. Black Enough features a Black woman and White Man in dialogue. Crossing Ebenezer Creek lays the title in the green and white water of a creek under a full moon, with two figures standing on the far shore holding hands. The Forgotten Girl shows a Black girl with her hair down and curly wearing a white shift dress.

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tanya Bolden. Also available as an eBook.

An astounding work of historical fiction, this book is heartbreaking and graphically authentic in its depiction of violence. Following the burning of Atlanta in 1864, teenage Caleb, a pontooner in Sherman’s army, finds Mariah, an enslaved young woman, searching for rations in an abandoned slave labor camp. She and others join Sherman’s march. As Caleb and Mariah begin to dream of a better future, the horrific true events of the Massacre at Ebenezer Creek unfold. For ages 12+. 

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi. Also available as an eAudiobook.

This contemporary fiction anthology examines the different experiences of Black youth in America. Some of the best Black young adult authors explore a spectrum of the intersectionality of wealth, status, LGBT+, class, rural/urban/suburban, and immigration that impact and represent Black youth today.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

A coming-of-age story, this book filters issues of systemic racism, class, generational mental health, privilege, and racial justice through the perspective of Ashley Bennett, a wealthy, Black teenager attending a predominantly white school. When graphic video evidence of Rodney King’s horrific beating by the LAPD goes viral and the riots following the officers’ lack of accountability, Ashley goes on a personal journey of growth and identity and awareness.

A collage of five books. Another Country emphasizes the author's name against a black background. How Long "Til Black Future Month features a Black woman in profile with her hair up and adorned with roses. The Home Place provides the perspective of looking up at a blue sky and bare branches. Homegoing has a an orange background with illustrations of waves and two overlapping profiles of Black women. Glory Over Everything shows a painting of a wman and a shcild standing in a field, with the illustration of robin in the foreground.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin. Also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

This collection of short stories is a wonderful introduction to one of the most innovative and celebrated authors of science fiction and fantasy writing today. Jemisin is unafraid to use her work to explore themes of trauma, prejudice, and oppression, while also creating richly-imagined worlds and unforgettable characters, whose voices have been missing from speculative fiction for far too long. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Also available as an eBook on OverDrive and on CloudLibrary, plus as an audiobook on CD and an eAudiobook on OverDrive.

Reading historical fiction is a great way to immerse yourself in a life different from yours. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing offers a deep look into the effects of imperialism and enslavement, and considers how the long shadows of their repercussions affect individuals and their families. Generation after generation of two half-sisters’ descendants guide us through the long-lasting consequences of systemic and systematic racism on separate continents an ocean apart.

Another Country by James Baldwin

I’d implore everyone to read anything – and everything – by James Baldwin, whom some have called America’s George Orwell. Perhaps it’s because of his contemplative and introspective essay style, but I think it refers to him as a political and social artist. My understanding is that the title refers to Baldwin’s wish for another country where one’s race or sexual preference aren’t defining characteristics, but sadly, this book is very much about this country. Another Country presents an engaging, well-crafted story about the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in the 1950s, well before most authors thought so broadly. Art, such as excellent fiction with characters everyone can relate to in some way, is a great way to explore these concepts.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.