Article cover for the Book Review Fighting to Belong show a two page spread of the graphic novel.

AAPI Book Review: Fighting to Belong

I was given the AAPI book, Fighting to Belong, a History of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by Amy Chu and Alexander Chang to read and review as part of Annual Read Your World Day 2024.  The purpose of Read Your World Day is to “raise awareness about children’s books that celebrate diversity and to get more of these books into the hands of readers.”

Article cover for the Book Review: Fighting to Belong showing a picture of the book.

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From A New AAPI Book Publisher

Fighting to Belong is the first title being released by Third State Books, the first general-interest publishing house that “focuses solely on bringing AAPI voices, perspectives, and issues to audiences who cherish them.”  Their goal is to publish a variety of books that “more fully represent the total Asian American experience.”

Fighting to Belong is the first graphic novel in a 3 volume series about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in America. This first volume covers the mid-1700s to the late 1800s.  It is written with 4-8th graders in mind and covers a lot of history in just 23 pages.

The Plot of Fighting to Belong

The graphic novel uses the story structure of a school history project to take readers on a virtual field trip through history.  The characters include a museum tour guide who is Haitian and Japanese and four students from diverse backgrounds.

The field trip starts by traveling back in time to New Orleans to learn about the Manila Men. Then the group heads to California where men arrived from China during the Gold Rush of 1849.  The building of the Transcontinental Railroad is the next stop where readers learn about difficulties in labor relations during that time.

Restrictive immigration laws are the next topic and a few specific court cases where Asian-American people fought for civil rights are included.

The final stop on the field trip is Hawaii, where readers learn who Pacific Islanders are and a little history of the Hawaiian islands.

Two page spread of the graphic novel Fighting to Belong.

My Thoughts About Fighting to Belong

It is amazing how much information is packed into such a short book.  Readers can make so many connections to other history and places they have learned about.  They are also building some background knowledge for future history books they may read.  Fighting to Belong would be a great introduction to AAPI history topics for students to then pick one of the topics and complete more in-depth research about it.

Using the format of a graphic novel allowed the writers to include a lot more history in 23 pages that they would have been able to without the illustrations.  The images allow the reader to visualize each of the history topics they are talking about quickly without having to read lots of extra words to make the images in their mind.

Sometimes graphic novels can be difficult to read because it can be hard to know what order to read the text in.  However, Chu and Chang did a good job of maintaining a left to right, top to bottom flow that made the book easy to read.

I learned so much history from this graphic novel and am excited to pass it on to my two boys to read.  It has inspired me to look into more graphic novels to include in our history lessons in our homeschool.  I look forward to volumes two and three to the series to see what other unknown history I learn.


Third State Books has five AAPI books they are releasing in 2024, one of which is a children’s picture book.  What in the World is Ezra’s Art? by Eric Toda and Shay Fan is “about a boy who loves to create art, but the people around him don’t seem to think it is very good.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mia Wenjen

    Thanks so much for sharing your terrific review of Fighting to Belong with Read Your World Day 2024. I am very excited about this graphic novel series as AAPI history is now going to be taught in many states’ public school systems and it’s long overdue!

    1. Randi Smith

      I learned so much from reading the book!

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