Lulu Wang’s The Farewell might be my favorite film of 2019. The Farewell was nominated for two Golden Globes, Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language, and Best Actress in Musical or Comedy (Awkwafina.) The Farewell centers around a Chinese family whose matriarch, Nai Nai (Grandma) has been diagnosed with cancer. The family plans a hasty wedding so everyone to see Nai Nai. Twentysomething Billi is conflicted with her family’s wishes to keep the diagnosis a secret from Nai Nai. I want everyone to watch this movie and then call their grandma person. The Farewell inspired me to create this list of books full of similar family stories—grief and joy and love.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
After her mother’s death, Natalie returns to her childhood home in Chinatown to find she has inherited her grandmother’s old restaurant. Encouraged, Natalie decides to reopen the restaurant with her grandmother’s own secret recipes. On the advice of a fortune teller, Natalie must help three members of her old-new community to insure the restaurant’s success. Through cooking and hard work, Natalie reconnects with her mother and grandmother and their legacies.
Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
Pacy Lin and her two sisters are spending the summer in Taiwan for their Grandma’s 60th birthday. They arrive just as Ghost Month is beginning, which makes Pacy nervous and feel even more confused by her unfamiliar surroundings. Pacy’s summer painting class is nothing like drawing back home and even the food is unfamiliar. This middle grade novel celebrates connecting with family and cultural roots in a fun, engaging way.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Bachman
The Land of Almost-Awake has always been Granny and Elsa’s special place, but Elsa soon finds out that Granny has loads of friends who know about it. When Granny gets sick and passes away, Elsa has to deliver all of Granny’s apology letters. Elsa can do it, she’s seven, after all. Granny had a lot of apologizing to do. Bachman’s signature humor is a perfect fit for a story about sweet Elsa and her feisty best friend, Granny.
Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson
This lyrical, poignant novel centers around three generations of a family as they face the challenges of parenthood, poverty, loss, racism, and class. Told through five shifting perspectives, Red at the Bone is a short yet powerful novel.
Grandmother’s Visit by Betty Quan, Illustrated by Carmen Mok
Grandmother lives with Grace, teaches her how to measure water for rice, and tells her stories about growing up in China. When Grandmother stops walking Grace to school, she stops making the rice, and soon, Grandmother doesn’t come out of her room. There is a funeral. Grace’s mom leaves the outside lights on, so Grandmother’s spirit can find her way home to say goodbye. Grandmother’s Visit is a gentle, loving story about the tender relationship between grandmother and grandchild.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
When Leigh’s mother died, she turned into a bird. Leigh travels Taiwan, to meet her grandparents for the first time, and follow the bird. Through forging new bonds, Leigh must reconcile her past with the family history she never knew as she navigates grief with love. This magic novel will sweep you up in Leigh’s world.
The Yellow Suitcase by Meera Sriram, Illustrated by Meera Sethi
Asha’s yellow suitcase has always been for gifts. She fills it with gifts for Grandma in India and Grandma fills it back up with gifts to take home to California. This time, Asha’s suitcase is empty because Grandma has died. Asha has to learn to fill her suitcase again. This book captures the precious memories that Asha and Grandma share together through sweet illustrations, featuring Asha’s fun fashion sense and bright colors.
When you’re finished reading these books, don’t forget to watch The Farewell. The Golden Globes Ceremony will air January 5, 2020.
For more reading material, these 25 children’s books about grandparents capture that special relationship between grandparent and grandchild.
Want even more family dynamic books? Try these 100 Must-Read Generational and Family Novels.