Literature for Adolescents (Last update: January 7, 2011) Table of contents

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Asian American

Na, An. The Fold. NY: Putnam, 2008. Joyce has gone overboard trying to get cute John Ford King to sign her yearbook, then realizes that he didn’t even realize whose yearbook he was signing. So when she is given the opportunity to have plastic surgery to, she thinks, improve her looks by her plastic-surgery crazed aunt, Joyce has to make a decision. Deathly afraid of any type of pain, Joyce has to decide if it’s worth it to have her eyes done. Middle school.

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuku. Farewell to Manzanar. NY: Bantam, 1990. A young girl describes how she and her Japanese family were interned in a U.S. war camp during WWII. Middle/high school.

Irwin, Hadley. Kim/Kimi. Ny: Viking/Penguin, 1988. Feeling out of place as a Japanese-American living in Minnesota, Kim, who lives with her mother’s white family, wants to return to San Francisco to meet her dead father’s Japanese family and learn more of the other half of her heritage. Middle/high school.

Kadohata, Cynthia. NY: Atheneum, 2004. Katie’s sister, Lynn, is the person who introduces kira-kira (glittering) into their lives, and it is Lynn who is Katie’s touchstone when the Japanese-American family moves from their home in Iowa to a new community in Georgia. The move is difficult, and life in Georgia is not as golden as it was presented. With their parents often gone, the two girls and their younger brother, Sammy, have to be there for each other. But when Lynn gets sick and each member of the family must come to terms with her illness, Katie learns that she must find the ability within herself to make kira-kira come back to the family. A lovely read for middle and high school students.
Yep, Laurence. Child of the Owl. NY: Harper and Row, 1990. A 12-year-old who knows little of her Chinese heritage is sent to live with her grandmother in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Middle school.
Yep, Laurence. Thief of Hearts. NY: William Morrow, 1994. In the sequel to Owl, two girls, one Asian-American and the other a new immigrant from China, try to forge a friendship even as they must prove to their classmates that they are not thieves. Middle/high school.


Alvarez, Julia. Return to Sender. NY: Knopf, 2009. This timely book focused on immigrant issues focuses on Tyler and his family as they are forced to hire temporary farm workers to keep their place going. Although Tyler finds himself becoming friends with Mari, the oldest daughter in the migrant family, he worries about their status and what it might mean to his family if the authorities find out that Mari’s family is undocumented. Eventually, Tyler has to make a decision about where his loyalties lie. This is an excellent book for middle and high school readers.

Cofer, Judith Ortiz. Call Me Maria. NY: Scholastic, 2004. A series of letters, poems, and prose that tells the story of Maria, a young woman caught between her American father and her Puerto Rican mother and the cultures of each. Born in Puerto Rica but living with her father in New York, Maria has to define herself against her individual parent’s expectations of who she is and who she can be. Excellent. Middle/high School.
Cofer, Judith Ortiz. An Island Like You. NY: Penguin, 1995. A series of short stories about Latina/os of Puerto Rican descent growing up in both New York and Puerto Rico. Excellent. High School.
de la Pena, Matt. Mexican White Boy. NY: Delacorte Press, 2008. Danny’s inability to deal with what he sees as the twin problems of his parents different cultural backgrounds—mom is white, dad is Hispanic—is further impacted by the expectations of those whose expectations of him are based on stereotyping versus who Danny really is. Danny also happens to be an amazing pitcher who can’t seem to sustain his abilities when pushed in a public arena. So when he decides to spend the summer with his dad’s family, Danny finally finds himself in a position to figure out who he wants to be and how he can achieve it. Excellent story of a young man confused by too many family issues and cultural expectations. Middle/high school.
Durbin, William. El Lector. NY: Wendy Lamb Books, 2006. Bella’s grandfather is one of the most well-known lectors in Ybor City, Florida in the early 1930’s; he reads novels, newspapers, and social commentaries to the workers at one of the largest cigar factories in town. But when the rollers begin to talk about bringing in the union, the owners bring in the Ku Klux Klan, and Bella’s family is thrown into the turbulence of the situation when her amazing Aunt Lola is put in jail for standing up for her rights. Bella comes to understand the importance of family and culture and the nature of social injustice in her hometown. An excellent middle school read.
Flores-Galbis, Enrique. Raining Sardines. NY: Roaring Book Press, 2007. In this tale of magical realism, Enriquito and Ernestina live in a part of Cuba where Don Rigol, a wealthy and not very ethical landowner, controls their village with threats/promises of jobs and personal security. But when he wants to cut down the nearby mountain jungle to expand his coffee plantation and entrap the wild ponies who live there, the two young people must take action. Aided by a soothseer and the spirit of Enriquito’s grandfather, justice prevails. A lively and entertaining middle school read.
Hijuelos, Oscar. Dark Dude. NY: Atheneum, 2009. Rico trades Harlem for Wisconsin when he gets tired of being treated like a punching bag—physically and emotionally—by his parents and his neighborhood. Treated badly because of his “light” looks in New York, Rico is easily accepted in Wisconsin, but the longer he stays, the more he realizes what he’s left behind besides his family: his identity. Can he reconcile being Latino with living in Wisconsin, or does he need to return home to truly find himself. A strong story for high school readers.
Martinez, Manuel Luis. Drift. NY: Picador, 2003. 16-year-old Robert Lomos is at a crossroads. His divorced parents seem unable and unwilling to parent him, so he finds himself shuttled off to live with his grandmother. He knows the importance of his education and school, but he desperately wants to make money in order to take care of his mother and thus be back in her life. He deeply wants to be loved but is unable to trust his girlfriend enough to feel safe in their relationship. A wonderful story of struggle and identity awareness. High school.

Osa, Nancy. Cuba 15. (2004). NY: Delacorte. Violet first hears about her quinceanero from her abuela who is bound and determined that her granddaughter will follow at least one of the traditional Cuban customs that the family has otherwise scorned. At first unhappy about having to plan for it, Violet and friends find that mixing tradition with contemporary can have interesting results. A delightful read as well as a poignant one, especially in terms of Violet’s connections with her father over their disagreements about how much Violet should actually know and learn about Cuba under Castro. Middle/high school.

Paulsen, Gary. Sisters/Hermanas. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1984. This book is written in Spanish in one direction and English in the other. The chapters also move back and forth from an Anglo girl who wants to be a cheerleader to an illegal immigrant who is trying to escape prostitution. Middle/high school.
Rebolledo, Tey Diane and Rivero, Eliana S. Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicano Literature. Tucson: U of

Arizona Press, 1993. Stories by Mexican American authors. Middle/high school.

Voorhees, Coert. The Brothers Torres. NY: Hyperion, 2008. Frankie has always idolized his older brother, Steve, who seems to be everything Frankie is not: muscled, smooth with the girls, smart without working at it. But when Steve is involved in a series of fights with a racist student at school, Frankie begins to question loyalty versus common sense, self-preservation versus aggression. This is a smart, funny book for high school readers.

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