May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Many years ago there were few books that accurately portrayed Asian Americans in books. Books like The Five Chinese Brothers are out-of-date, and makes it hard for any Asian Pacific American to relate to the culture that the book portrays. Now there are many authors such as Lawrence Yep, Grace Lin, Allen Say, Linda Sue Park, and more newcomers such as Cherry Cheva, Gene Luen Yang, and An Na. Books portraying Asian Pacific American Heritage are changing, and it’s exciting to see the new books that are now available. In addition to the books listed below, Fusion Stories is a great place to find more books that celebrate the Asian Pacific American Heritage.
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story
Written by Paula Yoo
Illustrations by Dom Lee
In 1932, Sammy Lee was a Korean boy who liked to go to the community pool to cool off from the summer heat. Restricted to use the community pool only one day a week, there was little Sammy could do besides watch other children play in the pool. One day he watched a boy dive into the “water with hardly a splash.” Sammy was hooked. He spent his Wednesday’s practicing diving. When the summer Olympics came to Los Angeles in 1932, Sammy dreamed of diving in the Olympics. But Sammy’s father wanted him to focus on his schoolwork and become a doctor. Years passed, and Sammy became a doctor, as his father hoped he would. During this time Sammy also served in the US Army during WWII, but he never forgot his dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. In 1946, Sammy got permission from the US Army and competed in the 1946 National Diving Championship. In 1948, Sammy was on the US Olympic Diving team, where he won the Gold and the Bronze metal in diving. In 1952, Sammy came back and defended his Olympic title with another Gold medal. Sammy was the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal and also the first male diver to win gold medals at consecutive Olympics for the same event.
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story is a great book about a great person. The author Paula Yoo did a good job keeping the story moving forward and focused on Sammy Lee. The illustrations are beautiful and matches the mood of the story.