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For Teachers

Materials on this page are for educators, from primary to secondary to higher education.

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Recommended Books by and about Southeast Asian Americans

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  • Cambodian Dancer: Sophany's Gift of Hope, by Daryn Reicherter (author),‎ Christy Hale (illustrator),‎ & Bophal Penh (translator) (2015) - The true story of a Cambodian refugee — a dancer and teacher — who built a life in the US after fleeing the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge. She became a counselor to other Cambodian refugees and created a school of dance for children. Her gift of hope was to teach children in the Cambodian community the traditional dances of their country, so young people growing up far away from the land of their ancestors would know about their culture. [Grades K-3]
  • Dia’s Story Cloth, by Dia Cha (author) & Chiie Thao Cha & Nhia Thao Cha (illustrators) (1998) - Based on a traditional Hmong story cloth, this picture book depicts the story of the author's family. It begins with their ancestors leaving China to settle in Laos and goes on to describe traditional life; the war between the loyalists and the Communists; the capture of Cha's father, and the remaining family's flight; their years in a refugee camp in Thailand; and finally, their immigration to the U.S. Extensive notes describe the history and ways of the Hmong people and how their art, combining needlework and storytelling, continues in U.S. [Gr 2-5]
  • A Different Pond, by Bao Phi (author) & Thi Bui (illustrator) (2016) - A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book that Kirkus Reviews calls "a must-read for our times," A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event – a long-ago fishing trip. As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father's long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao's father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. [Grades K-4]
  • The Hemp and the Beeswax: A Hmong Folktale, by Ia Moua Yang (2012) - Ia Moua Yang, Hmong textile artist, recounts Cinderella, one of her favorite stories. Unlike the Cinderella story we know from Europe, in the Hmong story the young couple is united in the hemp cloth with its indigo pattern made by using beeswax to resist the dye to create a pattern. [Ages 4 & up; trilingual Hmong/Lao/English picture book]
  • Going Home, Coming Home, by Truong Tran (author) & Ann Phong (illustrator) (2012) - A young girl visits her grandmother in Vietnam where her parents were born and learns that she can call two places home. [Gr 1-4; in Vietnamese and English]
  • A Long Time Ago in Southeast Asia: Tales from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, by the Center for Asian American Studies at UMass Lowell (2018) – An illustrated collection of folktales from Southeast Asia. To obtain copies, please contact Dr. Minjeong Kim (Minjeong_Kim@uml.edu).
  • Mali Under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home, by Youme Landowne (2010) - This is the true story of Lao American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Mali lived an idyllic life in the country with her family until the war began. Forced to flee, Mali and her family are arrested for not having a home in this country. With her childhood memories to sustain her, Mali tells stories of home to her fellow refugees. [Gr 1-4]
  • Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins (2012) - Chiko is a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family’s home and bamboo fields. When Chiko is forced into the Burmese army and subsequently injured on a mission, the boys’ lives intersect. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion as both boys discover that everything is not as it seems. Mitali Perkins delivers a touching story about hopes, dreams, and the choices that define who we are. [Ages 14 and up]
  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung (2000) - Riveting memoir covers 1975-1979 and the young Loung Ung's experiences during the Khmer Rouge genocide. Recently made into a Netflix film directed by Angelina Jolie and co-produced by renowned Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh. Selected by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians' Association for “Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature.”
  • Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, by Loung Ung (2006) - Highly readable memoir picks up where First They Killed My Father ends, following ten-year-old Loung Ung's resettlement in Vermont and her struggles with memories of violence and issues of identity. The book alternates Ung's experiences in the US with her older sister Chou, who remained in war-torn and poverty-stricken Cambodia.
  • When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge, by Chanrithy Him (2001) – Chanrithy Him provides a child's-eye view of the fall of Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, where rudimentary labor camps for both adults and children are the norm and modern technology no longer exists. Death becomes a companion in the camps, along with illness. Yet through the terror, the members of Chanrithy's family remain loyal to one another.
  • Survival in the Killing Fields, by Haing Ngor, with Roger Warner (2003; orig pub 1987) – Famous for his Oscar-winning role as Cambodian journalist Dith Pran in The Killing Fields, Haing Ngor was a successful doctor when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975. Because Ngor was an adult during the late 1970s, his memoir provides more historical and political context than Him’s and Ung’s memoirs. [For more advanced readers]
  • In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner (2013) – Ratner’s lyrical novel is the first work of fiction to be published by a major American trade press. It follows seven-year-old Raami during the Khmer Rouge genocide, when the only remaining vestige of her childhood are the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view any pdf files. It can be download for free from the Adobe website.

  • Khmer Girl, by Peuo Tuy (2014) - Khmer Girl is an autobiographical book of poems and storytelling that traces the compelling journey of Peuo Tuy from the killing fields of her native Cambodia to refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines and, finally, to the United States, where her family settled in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • On the Other Side of the Eye, by Bryan Thao Worra (2013) – Born in Laos in 1973, Bryan Thao Worra was the first Lao American to receive the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature for poetry (2009). His poems range from Lao legends and ghosts to museums and aliens, from Luang Prabang to Montana. This is out of print, but available online via Bryan Thao Worra's website.
  • Sông I Sing, by Bao Phi (2011) – A rhapsodic exploration of immigration, race, and class by Vietnamese American poet Bao Phi, who has been a National Poetry Slam finalist and appeared on HBO's Def Poetry.
  • Year Zero, by Michael Golamco (2011) - Sixteen-year-old Cambodian American Vuthy loves hip hop and Dungeons and Dragons. He is a weird kid in a place where weirdness can be fatal: Long Beach, California. Year Zero is a comedic drama about young Cambodian Americans - about reincarnation, reinvention, and ultimately, redemption. Produced at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell in 2014.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view any pdf files. It can be download for free from the Adobe website.

More Information

For more information about Asian American and Southeast Asian American studies, please visit the Center for Asian American Studies website or email: CAAS@uml.edu.

See us also at the Smithsonian Learning Lab (search for “Southeast Asian Americans Lowell”).