Stories Beyond Borders - A Chinese American and Diasporic Reading List For Teens

Created to commemorate the Chinese American Librarians Association’s 50th Anniversary, Stories Beyond Borders features children’s, middle grade, and young adult books centering Chinese American and diasporic voices. Rooted in different parts of the world, these empowering stories transcend borders and reflect the multifaceted experiences of our communities, leading us toward a brighter future full of hope, harmony, and unchecked possibilities. Dive in!

This celebratory reading list is formed through a collaboration between the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in consultation with the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). The CALA/YALSA Taskforce members are Crystal Chen, Melody Leung, Jen Woo, Cathy Andronik, Christy Lau, Susen Shi, and Amy Chow.

Books are selected based on their authenticity, accuracy, appeal, and creativity. Recent publications between 2020–2022 are prioritized due to their relevance. Some older books are included due to their historical influence and continued significance to Chinese American youth literature and are marked with an asterisk (*). The Taskforce recognizes the deep complexity of a Chinese American and diasporic experience across geopolitical boundaries and thus took an inclusive approach to selection whenever possible.

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American Born Chinese* by GENE LUEN YANG
Jin Wang is bullied and alienated at his school for being the only Chinese American student. When a new Taiwanese student enrolls, Jin grapples with complicated feelings. Three stories intertwine in this iconic coming-of-age graphic novel, leading to an unexpected and action-packed finale.
An Arrow to the Moon by EMILY X.R. PAN
Hunter Yee and Luna Chang don’t know what the future holds for them, but they do know they want to escape from their parents’ expectations and worries. And they know that, no matter how much their family
hates one another, there is an unmistakable spark connecting the two.
The Astonishing Color of After* by EMILY X.R. PAN
Leigh Chen Sanders is a biracial teen coping with her mother’s suicide. Leigh is convinced her mother has transformed into a bird and is determined to find her during a visit to her maternal grandparents in Taiwan. In their shared grief, Leigh unearths family secrets and becomes closer to her grandparents in this magical story of a teenager searching for her heritage.
A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C.B. LEE
In 1826, sheltered and obedient Xiang is destined for a submissive life as the wife of a rich businessman. Defying her mother’s expectations, Xiang joins a motley crew in search of buried treasure. Family,
romance, devotion, and betrayal are explored in this Treasure Island remix inspired by the real pirate queen Zheng Yi Sao.
Continuum by CHELLA MAN
Chella Man chronicles the journey towards awareness, acceptance, and pride in his own identity as an Asian, Jewish, deaf, transgender, genderfluid young adult, activist, and artist. Man’s work is featured throughout this brief but impactful memoir.
The Downstairs Girl* by STACEY LEE
Clever, quick-witted, pun-loving Jo Kuan works as a housemaid by day and secretly writes as the town’s newspaper advice columnist by night. Everyone wants to discover the identity of the forward-thinking author of “Dear Miss Sweetie,” but what would happen to her if it were revealed she is Chinese?
Gold Mountain by  BETTY G. YEE
When her brother passes away and her father is jailed for treason, Ling Fan must find a way to save her family. Disguised as her twin brother, Ling Fan travels to America to work for the Central Pacific
Railroad Company. However, trouble brews beneath the surface, and the money she desperately needs may be the least of her worries.
Iron Widow by XIRAN JAY ZHAO
Wu Zetian has one goal—to get revenge on the male pilot responsible for the death of her sister. Her revenge, however, leads to the discovery of a conspiracy, one that can break apart the misogyny of the Chrysalis program.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by MALINDA LO
Seventeen-year-old Chinese American Lily Hu embarks on a journey of self-awakening during the 1950s Red Scare in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She develops a tender and romantic relationship with white classmate Kathleen as they explore and find belonging among San Francisco’s LGBTQ community.
The Legend of Auntie Po by SHING YIN KHOR
Mei and her father work in an 1885 Nevada logging camp. Mei enjoys cooking for her camp family, developing feelings for Bee, and telling tall tales of Auntie Po. That is, until the company demands that the camp stops hiring Chinese
workers in the wake of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This lively graphic novel is told with watercolor washes over black outlines.
Luck of the Titanic by STACEY LEE Valora “Val” Luck, a biracial teenager, seeks to reunite with her twin brother Jaime and is convinced that a famous circus founder aboard a new British ocean liner—the Titanic—will hire the siblings for their acrobatic skills. She is determined to skirt the Chinese Exclusion Act and secure their success in America as the Titanic nears its end in this adventurous historical fiction.
A Magic Steeped in Poison by JUDY I. LIN
A tea brewed by Ning leads to the death of her mother and the near demise of her sister. Desperate to save her
sister, Ning must compete in a competition to find the greatest shennong-shi—masters of tea-brewing—and win a favor from the princess. The journey,
however, is fraught with deceit, and Ning must watch her every step.
Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by LAURA GAO
Laura just wants to join the basketball team and fit in. Weaving fond memories as a child in Wuhan, China, with coming-of-age struggles in Texas, this poignant graphic memoir delves into the nuances of identity and reflects on what it takes to truly untangle messy roots.
Picture Us in the Light* by KELLY LOY GILBERT
Danny Cheng is a senior in high school ready to head off to his dream college in the fall. When long-held family secrets come to light, Danny must make a journey into his past to accept his future.
The Silence that Binds Us by JOANNA HO
Life turns upside down for May when Danny, her brother, commits suicide. The news sends shockwaves through their community, and whispers soon start blaming May’s parents for putting “too much pressure” on Danny. May, adamantly intent on protecting her family and taking back the narrative, fights back.
Six Crimson Cranes The Dragon’s Promise ELIZABETH LIM
When a terrible curse befalls her six brothers, Princess Shiori of Kiata must embrace her magical abilities in order to save them in this folklore-inspired fantasy adventure. Along the way, she meets new friends—and new loves—and learns that not all is what it seems.
Superman Smashes the Klan* GENE LUEN YANG, GURIHIRU
In 1946, Lan-Shin (Roberta) Lee and her family move out of Chinatown to central Metropolis and attempt to fit in with the neighbors. But when the Klan begins harassing the Lees, Roberta teams up with new friends to help Superman take
down the Klan in this smart, action-packed comic book adventure.
A Taste for Love by JENNIFER YEN
High school senior Liza Yang and her mom can agree on one thing: baking. That is, until Liza realizes that the annual junior baking competition sponsored by her family’s bakery is actually a front to find Liza a nice Asian American man to date.
These Violent Delights by CHLOE GONG
The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers have been at war in Shanghai for generations. When bodies start piling up and a mysterious entity lurks in the shadow, two feuding families must come together to find answers.
This Place Is Still Beautiful by XIXI TIAN
Margaret and Annalie find themselves on opposite sides when a racist slur is written on their garage door. As the sisters navigate their bubbling emotions, the widening gulf between them threatens to upheave their family dynamics.