12 Jul 2022


Asian American Stereotype in Children’s Literature

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Academic level: College

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A stereotype is an over-simplified generalization about a particular group, race or sex, which usually carries derogatory implications. Through literature, children ought to see that they are and have a reflection of the people around them. Despite the fact that Asian Americans have been in the United States for long, they have not been well represented in children’s books. From research and scholarly literature, there is still children’s literature that contains Asian Americans stereotypes. When these attitudes about Asian Americans are expressed in books for children they interfere and children’s perceptions about them until stereotypes are taken and believed to be true and real. 

According to a guide on teaching for change by T he Council on Interracial Books for Children , some infamous (overt) stereotypes of colored and blacks are the happy-go-lucky, watermelon-eating Sambo and the fat, eye-rolling “mammy”; of Chicanos, the sombrero-wearing peon or fiesta-loving, macho bandito; of Asian Americans, the inscrutable, slant-eyed “Oriental”; of Native Americans, the naked savage or “primitive brave” and his “squaw”; of Puerto Ricans, the switchblade-toting teenage gang member; of women, the completely domesticated mother, the demure, doll-loving little girl or the wicked stepmother ( Wisconsin and Gilmer, 1976). If there is no culturally true and authentic portray of other people in children books, children may end up being introduced to racist views and ideas. In addition, Asian American students may continue being stereotyped by their fellow students and neglected. In most cases, multicultural texts are just some little additions to class lessons and not a part of class learning. According to Banks, the Asian-American experience is only confined to Chinese New Year or lessons around the California Gold Rush and transcontinental railroad and a practice like this one may promote tokenism ( Tang, 2013).  

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The use of these books and other literature that represent Asian Americans stereotypes may promote exoticism because the Asian Americans are positioned away from the American historical narrative. However, proper use of multicultural children’s books through application of a critical lens can furnish them to do well in a pluralist community (Willis Rivera &Meeker, 2002). 

From research, Asian American children experience low levels of self esteem than their fellow children. This is due lack of role models and the negative images about them brought about by the stereotyping. As s result they end up having high rates of suicide attempt, high levels of drugs and substance abuse and poor self esteem. Because they are not well covered and positively portrayed in children literature, they can become a marginalized group. In addition, children may lack to see the positive and true representation of the Asian American culture and purely rely on the stereotypes and myths when making any judgment about the Asian Americans and themselves too. There is sufficient evidence from research showing that Asian Americans including children feel limited and caged by stereotypes and the negative images and they end up feeling that they are never understood. As a consequence, the attitudes developed as a result of the stereotypes in children’s books can affect the lives of Asian American children in their adult lives. According to Liang’s study of Asian American’s, because of being stereotyped as unassertive, passive and docile, they are often denied leadership positions (Liang et.al, 2002). Therefore, in order to deal with the stereotyping, children and teachers should access culturally authentic and real literature that avoids the stereotypes. 

Asian American stereotypes will still remain in the children’s literature if cultural authenticity of the text is not checked .Cultural authenticity examines with accuracy, they way individuals are portrayed in the literature specific to their respective culture. Most of the controversy with cultural authenticity when it comes to literature is authorship. Most of the children’s books and Asian American literature are written by authors outside this culture and because of this many children’s with texts on Asian Americans have portray these stereotypes. Researchers argue that members outside a culture cannot accurately represent the life of another culture. Some scholars and researchers argue that authentic books can only be done by members of a certain culture because they have an avenue to information and they have knowledge of their culture and therefore are able to represent their culture and people in a an accurate manner. 

Because children’s literature is believed to influence and guide children in their socialization, lack of proper representation of the Asian Americans have come under close observation. However, there is an imbalance in the kind of books being written and used. In 2002, for example, out of the 5000 children’s books those were published only 91 were either authored by Asian Americans or had texts about Asian Americans (Bucher & Manning, 2006). Furthermore, out of the 91 published books only a small portion of them was actually cultural authentic. A majority of the books had proof of Asian Americans stereotypes. There are major problems with representation and stereotypes in children literature, quantity and quality. Also, authentic Asian American authored with the perspective of an insider appears to be sensitive to the Asian American culture experience experience and offers children literature that is free of stereotypes. 

Another issue that has been linked to Asian American stereotypes in children literature is what some scholars called ‘cultural theft.’ According to Thelma Seto, a Japanese-American writer, (as cited by Loh, 2006) “. . . it is morally wrong for Euro-American writers to ‘steal’ from other cultures in order to jump on the multicultural bandwagon, unless they have direct, personal experience in the country where that culture originates . . .” (Loh, 2006, p. 4). 

According to research, it is suggested that the formulation of a reliable tool to Asian American children’s literature in order to avoid stereotyping in these books. They further continue to state that inauthentic stereotyped children literature will continue being published if teachers and other stakeholders will not have the necessary tools for cultural authenticity assessment (Cai, 2002). As some scholars and researchers argue, diversified children literature provides them with an opportunity to see themselves as heroes and important members of the society just like others, which is important. However children books and other literature containing non-white protagonists can make the white children see people of color like the Asian Americans as something that is not normal, common or stereotypes. A wide body of children literature is required in order to reveal the true identity of Asian Americans in order to remove stereotyping and in case of lack of such a body, that is culturally authentic, Asians Americans may continue to be judged and perceived against such stereotypes that are not only lacking representation and truth but also monolithic ( Tang, 2013).  

In conclusion, the literature review brings out several factors contributing to Asian American stereotypes in children’s literature that should be addressed in order to overcome this issue. Multicultural literature represents one of the means for realizing the aims of diversity as well as equity in the learning process. Additionally, reading widely on perspectives related to diversity allows for enhancement of multicultural awareness, which makes it possible for individuals to recognize things such as privilege and power, that may be otherwise be invisible to other people. 


Bucher, K & Manning, M.L. (2006). Young adult literature: Exploration, evaluation, and appreciation. NJ: Pearson Education, Inc 

Cai, M. (2002). Multicultural literature for children and young adults . USA: Greenwood Press. 

Liang, C.T.H., Lee, S., & Ting, M.P. (2002). Developing Asian American leaders. New Directions for Student Services, 97, 81-89. 

Loh, V. S. (2006). Quantity and Quality: The Need for Culturally Authentic Trade Books in Asian American Young Adult Literature.  The Alan Review, 34,  1, 36-54. 

Tang, A. C. (2013).  The Representation of Asian Americans in Children's Literature: A Content Analysis of Texas Reading Basals . ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, 

Willis-Rivera, J.L. & Meeker, M. (2002). De que colores: A critical examination of multicultural children’s books. Communication Education, 51, 269-279. 

Wisconsin., & Gilmer, G. (1976).  Final report of the Minority Role Stereotyping Sub-Task Force: Of the State Superintendent's Task Force on "Freedom for Individual Development: Role Stereotyping in Wisconsin's Schools." . Madison: Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Asian American Stereotype in Children’s Literature.


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