New Asian Biographies to Celebrate the New Year

Ardith Ohka

Happy Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year!  This is a great time to take a look at your shelves and see if they represent the diversity of your community and open windows into the lives of people living in other parts of the world. These biographies of Asians, current and historical, can help fill in the gaps.

Never Grow Up by Jackie Chan (Interest Level 9-Adult, Simon & Schuster, 2019)

This memoir, written for adults but appropriate for high schoolers, highlights the fascinating life of one of the most famous action stars of our time. It describes Chan’s birth as a twelve-pound baby, his childhood living at the China Drama Academy, how he got into movies, and what he has learned along the way.

Who is Jackie Chan (Interest Level 3-5, Penguin Random House, 2020)

For younger students, there is a new entry on Jackie Chan in the Who Was series.

The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Biography of Bruce Lee (Interest Level 4-7, Scholastic, 2020)

This graphic novel biography tells the story of Bruce Lee’s life.  He grew up during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, then moved to the U.S. at age seventeen after being bullied and getting into fights. This book briefly touches on Lee’s story but might leave readers wanting more information.

Bruce Lee: A Life (Interest Level 10-Adult, Simon & Schuster, 2018)

Older readers may want to check out this recent adult biography.

Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao (Interest Level 1-4, Publishers Group West, 2020)

This new title tells the long-forgotten story of Zheng Yi Sao, the most successful female pirate in history.  Very little is known about her life, but this book does a great job of telling her story.  The notes at the end explain the facts that are known and how the author went about filling in the holes to make a narrative. It’s a wonderful introduction to an important historical figure that also provides insight into what is involved in writing historical fiction.

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