Growing up, I was a voracious reader, but I didn’t start picking up books by Korean authors with Korean protagonists until college. Whether unsettling books like Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, or sweet books like Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, reading them made me feel amazing because I could connect with the culture. But at the same time, it made me feel bittersweet because I think it came with the realization that there had been a literary lack in my childhood.
That’s part of what inspired me to reimagine Great Expectations with a Korean American, female protagonist. I wanted to update a classic story but from a point of view that really resonated with me. Every child deserves to see their lives represented in the literature they read. I hope the books on this list are read by everyone, but especially those who need them most.
Rajani Larocca$16.99 $15.80
If you like Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, you'll love this MG retelling by Rajani LaRocca. Mimi comes from a big Indian American family and is often overshadowed by her talented siblings, so when a new bakery opens up in town, she enters, determined to prove herself.
More to the Story
Hena Khan$17.99 $16.73
Inspired by Little Women, Hena Khan's More to the Story follows seventh-grader Jameela Mirza, who aspires to be an award-winning journalist. Beautifully written, this book shines due to Jameela's realistic relationships with both her friends and her Pakistani American Muslim family.
A Wish in the Dark
Christina Soontornvat$17.99 $16.73
In Christina Soontornvat’s beautiful A Wish in the Dark (inspired by Les Misérables) , Pong is born in prison, and dreams of walking among the magical lights that represent freedom for him. However, he soon finds that things outside the prison are just as unfair.
Linda Sue Park$16.99 $15.80
Less a reimagining and more a conversation with the Little House books (including their problematic shortcomings), Linda Sue Park's new novel takes place in the 1880s in Dakota Territory, and features a mixed-race Asian-American (Chinese and Korean) protagonist. I read this book in one sitting, and I have a feeling you might too!
If You Come Softly
Jacqueline Woodson$8.99 $8.36
Slightly inspired by Romeo and Juliet, Jacqueline Woodson's beautifully written novel tells the story of two star-crossed teenagers from different cultural backgrounds. Although more YA than MG, this could also be a good fit for sophisticated middle graders.
Looking for a new twist on old classics? Look no further than this list of MG retellings.