CHICAGO — The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), announced 2022 winners of its Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature youth categories Jan. 24 during the ALA Youth Media Award announcements at LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience, held Jan. 21-24.

The Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature celebrate Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage. The awards are based on literary and artistic merit within three youth categories: Picture Book, Children’s Literature and Young Adult Literature.  

The 2022 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature Picture Book winner is “Watercress,” written by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin, and published by Neal Porter Books.

Gathering watercress by the side of the road sparks a conversation among a family about their family history, heritage, and memories. Award-winning author Wang draws upon her childhood, growing up in a small, mostly white, rural town in Ohio as a child of Chinese immigrants in this autobiographical account illustrated by celebrated author and artist Chin, who incorporates painting styles and techniques from both Western and Chinese cultures

The committee selected one Picture Book Honor title, “A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi,” written by James Yang, published by Viking Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

 “Amina’s Song,” written by Hena Khan and published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, is the 2022 Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature winner.

“Amina’s Song” celebrates the strength of identity, family and friendship, and culture. Having spent part of her summer vacation in Lahore, Pakistan, meeting and forming strong family connections with her cousin and uncle, and exploring the sights, sounds, and smells of Pakistan, Amina returns at the end of summer vacation to Wisconsin and seventh grade. The struggles that Amina faces as she balances her Pakistani identity and self-discovery is something that has touched many of us. The character of Amina is someone that many can identify with and her strength is inspiring. 

The committee selected one Children Literature Honor, title “Finding Junie Kim,” written by Ellen Oh and published by HarperCollins.

The Asian/Pacific American Award for Youth Literature winner is “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” written by Malinda Lo and published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

In San Francisco’s Chinatown during the 1950s, 17-year-old Lily Hu explores her identity as a gay Chinese American teen through a joyful interracial relationship with white classmate Kathleen. Their growing relationship is set against the backdrop of the underground gay scene in San Francisco during the Red Scare, where government paranoia of Communists during the Cold War runs rampant.

Lo deftly presents her characters and storyline with historical accuracy, graceful use of Chinese language and dialect, and a deep cultural awareness. She also highlights an often overlooked and underappreciated lesbian culture, tying it into the history of Chinese America. Young people will see their own internal and external struggles reflected in Lily and her journey of self-awakening.

The committee selected one Youth Literature Honor, “We Are Not Free,” written by Traci Chee and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Winner and Honor books were chosen from titles by or about Asian Pacific Americans published between September 2020 to August 2021. Each award will be named and given the award seal during the annual APALA Literature Award Ceremony taking place during the ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.  

For a complete list of Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature, including adult fiction and nonfiction titles, visit www.apalaweb.org/awards/literature-awards/.

The 2022 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature committee members include:

Co- Chairs Buenaventura “Ven” Basco, University of Central Florida, Orlando; Dora Ho, Los Angeles Public Library, retired; and Helen Look, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Picture Book Award Committee:

Chair: Dora Ho, Los Angeles Public Library, retired; Kristen Kwisnek, Severn School, Arnold, Md.; and Becky Leathersich, The State University of New York, Geneseo, N.Y.

Children’s Literature Award Committee:

Co-Chair Florence Tang, Mercer University, Atlanta; Co-Chair Jamie Kurumaji, Fresno County Public Library, Fresno; Arya Hackney, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, N.M.; Katie Hom, Alameda County Library, Fremont; and Yun Ji (Angie) So, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.

Youth Literature Award Committee:

Chair Crystal Chen, The New York Public Library; Danilo Baylen, College of Education, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Ga.; Anna Coats, Newark Public Library, Newark, N.J.; Tamiko Welch, Los Angeles Public Library; and Jen Woo, San Francisco Public Library.

The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) was founded in 1980 by librarians of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestries committed to working together toward a common goal: to create an organization that would address the needs of Asian/Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian/Pacific American communities.

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