19 Audiobooks for Listeners of All Ages Featuring Asian and Asian American Characters

For both May’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and beyond, consider lining shelves and adding to TBR piles with some of these edifying, entertaining 2024 audio choices.

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No doubt, books and empathy go hand-in-hand or, in this case, ear-to-ear. In a climate of contagious divisiveness, acknowledging and accepting all manner of differences is paramount to being good citizens and, most importantly, good people.

For both May’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and beyond, consider lining shelves and adding to TBR piles with some of these edifying, entertaining 2024 choices.


AHN, Angela. Swimming into Trouble. narrated by Vicki Kim. 2:46 hrs. (Julia on the Go!: Bk. 1). Tundra. Feb. 2024. $12.99. ISBN 9781774885857.
Gr 2-5–Korean Canadians Ahn and Kim reunite (after Krista Kim-Bap) for the debut of Ahn’s new series starring exuberant swimmer Julia. At nine, she might be the youngest member of the Vipers junior team, but she’s also one of the most promising and dedicated. When an ear infection threatens to keep her out of the pool for two weeks, she’s convinced that super-duper Rhinoceros Glue and plastic soup bowls just might be the answer to getting wet—safely enough, anyway. Escaping such a sticky situation, though, ultimately allows her to be a supportive teammate—above water. Kim is a careful reader, mindfully enunciating throughout. She moderates tone and pitch for a diverse roster of kids beyond excitable Julia, such as competitive Olivia, kind BFF Maricel, and various helpful adults, adding soft accents for Julia’s Korean immigrant parents. VERDICT Author and narrator complementarily celebrate tenacity with vivacity and charm.

Ali, Marzieh A. A Ramadan To Remember. narrated by Ali Nasser. Dreamscape Audio. Jan. 2024. 14 min. $9.99. ISBN 9781666652277.
K-Gr 3–Ramadan is Zain’s favorite time of the year, but his family has recently moved to a new neighborhood without an obvious Muslim population: no mosque, no Islamic school, no Ramdan decorations in neighbors’ windows, Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr missing from the classroom calendar. “For the first time, Zain’s Ramadan glow isn’t so bright.” His imagination, however, is cleverly resourceful: empty moving boxes become a mosque in their yard and curious passersby give Zain opportunities to share his heritage. During prayer, another Muslim friend appears, helping make this A Ramadan to Remember. Nasser is an ideal cipher, his mellifluous voice growing joyfully buoyant (enhanced by an upbeat soundtrack) as Zain discovers—and creates—his new community. Ali’s valuable back matter includes directions to “Make Your Own Ramadan Treat Bags,” which might be the perfect reason to pair audio with print. VERDICT Schools and libraries should add Ramadan to their shelves.

CHEN, Eva. We Are Golden: 27 Groundbreakers Who Changed the World. narrated by Eva Chen. 12 min. Macmillan Young Listeners. Jan. 2024. $1.99. ISBN 9781250327253.
PreS-Gr 3–Chen repeats her jubilant author/narrator performance of her splendidly empowering I Am Goldenwith a plural sequel celebrating 27 groundbreakers of Asian and Asian Pacific American heritage. Soft piano music and the sound of a crackling fire accompany Chen’s opening invitation: “Look closely at this flame, my child. What do you see?” as she reveals “the beauty of the Asian story—like flames, no two are alike.” Chen offers introductory bios of an extensive cast of superstars, including artist Takashi Murakami and actor Anna May Wong, physicist Chien-Shiung Wu and astronaut Ellison Onizuka, activist Grace Lee Boggs and athlete Chloe Kim. That Chen also highlights not-quite-household-names is especially inspiring. “The world is yours to change,” she assures. “YOU ARE GOLDEN.” A print plus audio pairing is obviously encouraged—the flame becomes the aural page-turning prompt. VERDICT An uplifting title for all libraries.

HO, Joanna & Liz Kleinrock. Eyes That Weave the World’s Wonders. narrated by Sura Siu. 7 min. HarperAudio. Jan. 2024. $2.99. ISBN 9780063348806.
PreS-Gr 3–Siu gently begins with coauthor Kleinrock’s “Dear Reader” letter that asks, “When was the first time you saw yourself represented in a book?” and self-answers, “Never”—until she and Ho created this one together. Siu’s is a tender performance, softly capturing the lyrical verses of a Korean child’s transracial adoption, both “joyful and painful, often at the same time.” In family pictures, “Everyone [is] matching in every way… Except me.” The little girl is obviously nurtured and beloved, but she still contemplates “who and where and why and what if and what happened” to transplant her from her birth mother and birth country: “All I know for sure…sometimes love must look like letting go.” Comforted by “trinkets that traveled with me between lives,” the girl’s eyes connect her to past and present, encouraging her to “spin stories and weave the world’s wonders.” VERDICT Siu underscores Ho and Kleinrock’s celebration of family with heartfelt resonance.

SHETH, Sheetal. Bravo, Anjali! narrated by Sheetal Sheth. 7 min. (Always Anjali: Bk. 2). Listening Library. Jan. 2024. $5. ISBN 9780593826492.
PreS-Gr 3–Actor/producer/author Sheth returns to richly voice the second entry in her “Always Anjali” series. In Anjali’s family, she’s “the chief maestro of [their] house—in charge of all the music and magic.” Her instrument is the tabla, even if most people think it’s “a boy’s instrument.” At tabla lessons and at school, Deepak suddenly becomes more bully than the friend Anjali thought he was, taunting and disparaging her. His meanness hurts enough to make Anjali question her own talent just before the upcoming recital. “Never dim your light, girl,” an older fifth grader insists, giving Anjali the boost of confidence she needs to earn her glorious “Bravo, Anjali!” applause. Sheetal marvelously channels her charmingly spunky hero, her delivery just right for the challenging lows and highs of a passionate artist-in-the-making. VERDICT An entertaining, heartening reminder to young readers to never “feel bad for being good at something.”

TAKEI, George. My Lost Freedom: A Japanese American World War II Story. narrated by George Takei. 37 min. Listening Library. Apr. 2024. $5. ISBN 9780593865286.
Gr 1-4–Solemn music opens and closes Takei’s gentle, earnest recall from age four when he was among 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent unjustly imprisoned during World War II. His introduction is initially jaunty: “Hi! I’m George Takei, an 87-year-old actor. Yes, I have lived long and prospered,” referencing his evergreen Star Trekfame. His gravely, aging voice turns somber to reveal “memories of when our differences became our devastation.” Takei, his parents, and his two younger siblings fell victim to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. “But we were Americans who had done nothing wrong.” Yet the Takei family was herded through three locations: the Santa Anita Racetrack, Camp Rohwer, and Tule Lake. “My childhood behind barbed wire was a mix of both fond and terrifying memories. But through it all, Mama and Daddy always took a stand. They were my solid American heroes.” VERDICT With additional preface and afterword enhancements, Takei’s inviting audio rendition provides a full experience.


Middle Grade

HIRANANDANI, Veera. Amil and the After. narrated by Veera Hiranandani & Sid Sagar. 6:05 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2024. $18. ISBN 9780593820520.
Gr 4-6–Sagar is a sigh-inducing, aural gift to Hiranandani’s companion title to 2019’s Newbery Award-winning The Night Diary . Hiranandani’s family history inspires both titles; while Diary follows Nisha’s perspective of the horrors of partition, this novel shifts focus to Nisha’s twin, Amil, and the remaking of their lives after barely surviving the grim journey from Pakistan to India. Papa is doctoring again after cousin Ashok helped him get hired at the hospital. Dadi (paternal grandmother) almost died, but she’s better—for now. Beloved Kazi remains part of the family. Nisha still isn’t talking very much, and Amil is having trouble at school, wishing for a friend—and maybe a bike. Nisha writes, Amil draws: both twins poignantly channel a longing for their mother who died giving birth. Sagar ensures each character is instantly recognizable: inquisitive, hopeful Amil; observant Nisha; serious Papa; gently wise Kazi; effusive Ashok; fading Dadi; desperately posturing Vishal. VERDICT Add either print or audio—or better, both!—to all shelves.

KELLY, Erin Entrada. The First State of Being. narrated by Ramon de Ocampo. 5:04 hrs. HarperAudio. Mar. 2024. $21.99. ISBN 9780063337343.
Gr 3-5–Since voicing Kelly’s 2018 Newbery Medal-awarded Hello, Universe,prolific de Ocampo (who shares Kelly’s Filipino American heritage) continues as the author’s male voice of choice, notably channeling ages, genders, and backgrounds with confident ease. In August 1999, 12-year-old Michael shoplifts canned peaches to augment his Y2K stockpile. His overworked single mother (who loves peaches) thinks he still needs a babysitter—16-year-old Gibby who smells like strawberries. His only other friend is Mr. Mosley, their apartment complex’s maintenance manager. And then Ridge appears, asking for the date, wearing strange clothes, and speaking unfamiliar phrases. Michael and Gibby must figure out who he is, and then how to get him home. Kelly regularly interrupts her 1999 narrative with excerpts dating well into the future that de Ocampo imbues with a slight, lyrical accent, as if the English decades ahead might not be what we hear today. VERDICT De Ocampo’s expert narration is also an encouraging choice for reluctant readers.

KHAN, Hena. Drawing Deena. narrated by Reena Dutt. 5:23 hrs. S. & S. Audio. Feb. 2024. $17.99. ISBN 9781797174204.
Gr 3-6–“I know I’m pretty good at art, but I’m not amazing,” 13-year-old Deena believes. “And I want to be amazing at it.” For now, though, additional classes and camps aren’t possible, with her immigrant parents bickering often about money. Assisting her mother with her Pakistani clothing import business is a way to lessen some of the family’s stress, but Deena’s own anxiety persists and worsens. Between nighttime teeth grinding and recurring nausea, Deena can’t find relief. Accepting support from understanding adults is the only way she’s going to move ahead. Dutt, whose audio credits particularly for South Asian children’s titles are quickly multiplying, is an accomplished cipher, sensitive to ages and backgrounds, effortlessly channeling conversations with distinctive characterizations. VERDICT Khan integrates all manner of teen topics—social media dangers, school challenges, stereotypes, parent/child dynamics, and cultural differences—ensuring resonance with broad audiences.

LEE, Lyla. Gigi Shin Is Not a Nerd. narrated by Shannon Tyo. 3:42 hrs. S. & S. Audio. Mar. 2024. $14.99. ISBN 9781797174235.
Gr 3-7–Lee’s newest series introduces lively seventh grader Jiyoung “Gigi” Shin. Despite her Korean immigrant parents pushing for STEM success, Gigi’s passion lies in art, particularly comics. Learning about the Starscape Young Artists’ Program—a prestigious summer camp held next on NYU’s campus—is both revelatory and discerning, the latter because of the hefty price tag. Also interested are Gigi’s best friends, Latinx video game-maker Carolina and Muslim aspiring picture book creator Zeina, but tuition remains a barrier. Joined by Carolina’s friend Emma, a fashion-forward Chinese American, the quartet form the Ace Squad, providing tutoring services. Misunderstandings are plenty—especially over cute-boy Paul—but more so are the resounding successes. Now the girls just need to get in. Tyo’s crisply youthful voice adjusts effortlessly, distinguishing tweens and teens, younger brothers, older sisters, parents, and teachers. VERDICT With unfinished business cleverly left for future volumes, audiences will certainly appreciate Tyo’s future continuity.

MA, Diana. The Unbeatable Lily Hong. narrated by Dana Wing Lau. 7:02 hrs. HarperAudio. Jan. 2024. $21.99. ISBN 9780063376793.
Gr 5-8–Lau brings delicious attitude to tween Lily who’s juggling too many challenges in her seventh grade life. “Nope, [she] will not be intimidated” by her archnemesis Max. Her next film project with her two BFFs Lauren and Kelli must win the annual Clarktown’s Got Talent video competition—even if “that would take a miracle.” She won’t be “a complete loser” at Chinese school compared to her near-perfect brother and Chinese school best friend Tina. When the family’s Hong Chinese Academy is jeopardized because its community center home faces financial threat, Lily’s parents are hopeful a fundraiser will help, which means Lily must learn some new steps for the traditional Chinese dance showcase—with Max! Lau gleefully channels determined, occasionally snarky, Lily who vivaciously grabs the spotlight. VERDICT Lau rousingly augments Ma’s engaging lessons in vulnerability and honesty—with parents and friends—as the surefire win.

SHEN, E.L. Maybe It’s a Sign. narrated by Jennifer Sun Bell. 5:09 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. Jan. 2024. $9.99. ISBN 9781666653601.
Gr 4-6–Thirteen-year-old Freya began playing the viola to please her father. Since his death eight months ago, there have been significant changes in her life, but she insists on believing in all his superstitious signs—because that means he isn’t truly gone. When she notices two red birds, she’s convinced Dad’s finally sending a clear message to continue to play. But she also really enjoys creating in the kitchen, even though she’s forced to work with Gus, “the most annoying kid,” for their cooking class project. Though, maybe Gus isn’t so awful either. Versatile Bell empathically embodies family loss and middle school anxiety, nimbly modulating between unsettled Freya and clumsy Gus. She’s especially facile switching between teens and adults, her agile narration instantly adding and losing decades. VERDICT Shen and Bell provide a healing read/listen.

WANG, Andrea. Summer at Squee. narrated by Yu-Li Alice Shen. 6:48 hrs. Listening Library. Mar. 2024. $23. ISBN 9780593820544.
Gr 3-7–“For the entire year, I’ve longed for camp,” Phee confesses as she returns to Summertime Chinese Culture, Wellness, and Enrichment Experience (SCCWEE or “Squee” for the devoted regulars). She’s thrilled to reunite with her BFF Squad, but five new girls have caused some changes, although they act like they don’t even want to be there. When the newbies reveal they’re transracial adoptees, the Squad begins to understand a whole new set of identity challenges and cultural assumptions about being Chinese American. Shen draws on her background as a playwright and actor for an expansive performance, adroitly distinguishing characters with notable, camera-ready attitudes. Phee and Squad are immediately easy with each other while the newbies are quickly recognizable as impatient eye-rollers, embodying their discomfort at feeling out of place. VERDICT Hand to reluctant readers seeking narratives with more mature issues—including anti-Asian sentiments.

Yang, Kelly. Finally Heard. narrated by Kelly Yang & Sunny Lu. S. & S. Audio. Feb. 2024. 7:27 hrs. $17.99. ISBN 9781797168678.
Gr 4-6–Both opening and ending credits specifically mention “a note read by the author,” but that doesn’t seem to be included here. While Yang’s “Dear young readers” isn’t essential to the narrative, her reveal of the truth in her fiction is a sobering reminder of the dopamine-spiking dangers of social media. Versatile, youthful Lu thankfully returns as Yang’s voice-of-choice; aural continuity from Finally Seen is unnecessary and Heard easily stands alone. Lina Gao, recently reunited with her parents and sister, has settled into her American life thanks to family bonding and supportive friends. Puberty is hitting her hard, though, especially in sudden physical changes. Although she’s one of the few phoneless fifth graders, helping her mother create content for her struggling bath bomb business gets Lina connected. Inheriting Mom’s old device, however, gives her too much access for which she’s unprepared. VERDICT Lu elevates Yang’s occasionally pedantic lessons on digital safety.


Young Adult

AVACHAT, Arushi. Arya Khanna’s Bollywood Moment. narrated by Nikhaar Kishnani. 9:16 hrs. Macmillan Young Listeners. Jan. 2024. $26.99. ISBN 9781250331243.
Gr 7-10–Relative newbie Kishnani, who has Bollywood experience, is sublimely well-matched to narrate Avachat’s frothy concoction of family drama, senior-year endings and beginnings, and of course, love , embellished with timely references to classic Bollywood films and music. Almost as young as her star Arya, college student Avachat makes her debut in a definitive write-what-you-know production. At home, Arya is finally reunited with beloved older sister Alina who dropped out of Columbia and disappeared for three years, but now she’s back (surprise!) to plan her dream wedding. Mixed with Arya’s joy, though, is built-up anger at being abandoned. At school, Arya’s two best friends dated, then broke up (badly), unbalancing their longtime bonds. Four-year-rival Dean, to whom she must play vice president to his unearned presidency, overshadows her senior council work. But what happens when adversity turns amorous? VERDICT Overcomplications are many, but true love waits at book’s end. Avachat and Kishnani delight.

OH, Ellen. The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee. narrated by Ami Park. 7:38 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2024. $23. ISBN 9780593794951.
Gr 7-10–Korean American actor Park (yes, Yuna from canceled Alaska Daily!) makes her audio debut with We Need Diverse Books cofounder Oh’s hybrid adventure—equal parts contemporary teen drama, superhero web comic, and parallel-world speculative fiction. Youthful Park imbues Mina with an impressive emotive range, while also clearly enjoying the sizable cast, seamlessly channeling best friends, mean girls, judgmental relatives, nasty villains, bewildered scientists, and that dreamy love interest. Mina misses her beloved artist mother, who Mina’s grieving busy father seems to want to erase and her paternal Korean family expects her to follow her cousins’ overachievement. Mina’s web comic is one of her few escapes; after honest feedback from her BFFs, her virtual world becomes all too real (anything to escape SAT prep?). Suddenly she’s fallen into her panels and is on the verge of losing narrative control. VERDICT Oh and Park make an indubitable dynamic duo.

PARK, Soyoung. Snowglobe. narrated by Shannon Tyo, Greta Jung & Jeena Yi. 10:28 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2024. $20. ISBN 9780593794937.
Gr 7-10–All but the last quarter-hour belongs to Tyo, who cinematically ciphers the 10-plus hours of Park’s camera-ready, highly anticipated, internationally bestselling Korean import. The duology is spectacularly franchise-prepped: a dystopic frozen world, the privileged controlling few, the rebels with noble causes and secret identities. Snowglobe is the only (manufactured) temperate haven, where everyday life is manipulated for broadcast to the world’s depleted residents. Sixteen-year-old Chobahm is plucked from the wasteland to becomeSnowglobe’s favorite darling on everyone’s beloved show;Snowglobe’s biggest star Goh Haeri died by suicide and needs to be replaced without anyone ever knowing what happened. Once in paradise, Chobahm realizes what’s on screen is exactly that—a show. Tyo’s commanding performance pauses with enticing fodder for the next volume. Jung follows with a deliciously bewildering single chapter; Yi concludes with shocking backstory. VERDICT Truth and reality continue to diverge, leaving audiences craving more.

RANA, Sarah Mughal. Hope Ablaze. narrated by Farah Kidwai. 9:43 hrs. Macmillan Young Listeners. Feb. 2024. $19.99. ISBN 9781250331274.
Gr 7 Up–Kidwai’s training as a classical singer enables an impressive range of emotive voices that significantly upgrades debut novelist Rana’s meandering pages—a prose/poetry hybrid—into a notable performance, bolstered by writer and narrator’s shared Pakistani American heritage. When Nida is intimidated, frisked, and her hijab forcibly removed by police patrolling a political rally for a Senate Democratic candidate, her reaction is to write out her helpless frustration, anger, fear, and truth. When that poetry is submitted—without her knowledge—to a national competition and wins, Nida is thrown into a glaring spotlight she never wanted. Rampant Islamophobia gets her labeled a terrorist, not unlike her wrongfully incarcerated poet uncle. Kidwai’s Nida is richly multi-layered—thoughtful, bewildered, tenacious. Kidwai also excels as wise older sister Zaynab, myopic white friend Alexis, and entitled hypocritical politician Wilson. VERDICT Libraries may want to choose audio over print in adding to their collections.

SHIM, Grace K. Not Your Average Jo. narrated by Shannon Tyo. 9:14 hrs. Listening Library. Mar. 2024. $27.50. ISBN 9780593681596.
Gr 7-10–Tyo—a transracial Korean adoptee—is quickly becoming an Asian voice of choice, her audio performances buoyed by her award-winning credits on stage as she again convincingly, expertly assumes genders, ages, and backgrounds. Riley Jo wants out of her hometown, Bentonville, AR, where she’s lived her whole life with constant racist othering for being Asian American in a non-diverse community. She grabs the chance to spend senior year at a renowned arts academy in Los Angeles, providing her the opportunity to seriously pursue music. But the all-boy band she joins isn’t exactly accepting, although they have little problem appropriating her suggested band name and even her latest song. Still, getting noticed by industry gatekeepers is very real—albeit much more difficult if you don’t look the part. VERDICT Shim’s sophomore novel exposes and entertains, challenges and inspires; Tyo’s adaptability ensures even the occasional didactic moments get infused with plenty of empowering attitude.

Terry Hong was LJ’ s 2016 Reviewer of the Year for Fiction and Audio.

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