G. Neri: I Read Asian and Pacific Islander American Books

In his video, author G. Neri highlights works  written and illustrated by several authors from the the Asian Pacific Islander diaspora.

R. Kikuo Johnson, author of Night Fisher is  an author and illustrator from Hawaii. Kampung Boy is Datuk Mohammad Nor bin Mohammad Khalid’s autobiography of his childhood in Malaysia and its sequel is Town Boy. The author, better known as Lat, has been writing since the age of 13.  Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s works, Skim and This One Summer round out Neri’s selections. The cousins, Mariko and Jillian, have Japanese ancestry and live in Canada.

Night Fisher (Fantagraphics, 2005) 

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 1.49.00 PM2006 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award Winner; 2006 Harvey Award Winner, Best New Talent
“R. Kikuo Johnson has created an intimate and compelling graphic novel-length drama of young men on the cusp of adulthood. First-rate prep school, S.U.V., and a dream house in the heights: This was the island paradise handed to Loren Foster when he moved to Hawaii with his father six years ago. Now, with the end of high school just around the corner, his best friend, Shane, has grown distant. The rumors say it’s hard drugs, and Loren suspects that Shane has left him behind for a new group of friends. What sets Johnson’s drama apart is the naturalistic ease with which he explores the relationships of his characters. It is at once an unsentimental portrait of that most awkward period between adolescence and young adulthood and that rarest of things: a mature depiction of immature lives. Visually, Johnson captures the languid tropical climate and strip mall tackiness of Hawaii in a rich chiaroscuro style reminiscent of Milton Caniff combined with the sensual ink work of Paul Pope or Jessica Abel.” from the publisher

Kampung Boy (Berita, 1979; FirstSecond, 2006) 

BCCB Blue Ribbon Award; Booklist Top 10 Graphic Novel for Youth; ALA Best Books for Young Adults; Books for the Teen Age; New York Public Library; American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; Booklist Editors’ Choice; NPR Holiday Pick; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Award; NYPL Books for the Teen Age; IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities
Cartoon series
“Beloved by millions of readers in Southeast Asia, Kampung Boy is a humorous, fictionalized graphic memoir about a Muslim boy growing up in Malaysia.
With masterful economy worthy of Charles Schultz, Lat recounts the life of Mat, a Muslim boy growing up in rural Malaysia in the 1950s: his adventures and mischief-making, fishing trips, religious study, and work on his family’s rubber plantation. Meanwhilethe traditional way of life in his village (or kampung) is steadily disappearing, with tin mines and factory jobs gradually replacing family farms and rubber small-holders. When Mat himself leaves for boarding school, he can only hope that his familiar kampung will still be there when he returns. Kampung Boy is hilarious and affectionate, with brilliant, super-expressive artwork that opens a window into a world that has now nearly vanished.” from the US publisher

Town Boy (Berita, 1981; FirstSecond 2007)
“This sequel to Kampung Boy (2006) takes up the Malaysian cartoonist’s memoir in the 1960s, at the point where he arrives in Ipoh to continue his education at a boarding school. Lat’s family moves to town as well, but Lat focuses more on his social life than his studies or his parents. Ipoh is a multicultural place, and Lat’s friends include Indians, Chinese, and other south Asians. His best friend, Frankie, is ethnic Chinese, and, with Frankie by his side, Lat learns about record players, cheating at PE, and how to ask a girl to the movies. Page layout is more varied than in Kampung Boy. There are still many full-page illustrations, and Lat continues to depict himself as a mop-topped, bandy-legged kid, but there are also intervening passages laid out in panels and some wondrously detailed crowd scenes that consume entire spreads. Occasionally, characters speak in their native languages, which remain untranslated, but this won’t get in the way of the reader’ s enjoyment; it simply adds another dimension to Lat’s impressive world building.” Booklist review

Skim(Groundwood, 2008)

Mariko Tamaki; photo by Sorrell Scrutton

New York Times Best Illustrated Books, 2008; Bloomsbury Review’s Editor’s Favourite Books of 2008, 2008; ALA Top Ten Books for YA, 2008; Ignatz Award – Outstanding Graphic Novel, 2008;  Doug Wright Award – Best Book, 2008; YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2008
“Skim is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth stuck in a private girls’ school in Toronto. When a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself because he was rumoured to be gay, the school goes into mourning overdrive, each clique trying to find something to hold on to and something to believe in. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s high school, and that’s what happens to Skim when she starts to meet in secret with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But when Ms. Archer abruptly leaves, Skim struggles to cope with her confusion and isolation, armed with her trusty journal and a desire to shed old friendships while cautiously approaching new ones.” from the publisher

This One Summer  (First Second, 2014)

Jillian Tamaki; Photo by Emma McIntyre

Michael L. Printz Award – Honor, NYTBR Notable Children’s BOTY, Harvey Award, YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens, Horn Book Fanfare, School Library Best Books of the Year, New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Books of the Year, Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year, Booklist’s Editor’s Choices, School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, L.A. Times Book Prize – Finalist, Caldecott Honor Book, YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Boston Globe Best Books of the Year, Time Magazine Top 10 Books of the Year, Booklist Editors’ Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Eisner Award Winner, CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI), ALA Notable Children’s Books, Eisner Award Nominee
“Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad… Something life threatening. It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.” from the publisher

G. Neri is the Coretta Scott King honor-winning author of Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty and the recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for his free-verse novella, Chess Rumble. His books have been translated into multiple languages in over 25 countries. They include Tru & Nelle, Surf Mules, Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, and Ghetto Cowboy, which was made into a movie starring Idris Elba.