Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Arree Chung, Author and Illustrator of Ninja!


Hi everyone! This week, I’m excited to have Arree Chung, author and illustrator of numerous books, including Ninja!. Based on his responses here, it looks like he’s working on a middle grade novel as well. Can’t wait to see it!

1) Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

Well, the character I relate to most is a middle grade book I’m working on titled, Ming Lee. I relate to it the most, well because it’s largely autobiographical!NINJA_CLAN

Ming Lee explores what it means to be American. As an ABC (American Born Chinese), I didn’t completely identify with American or Chinese culture. I felt stuck in-between and belonging to none. When I tried to fit in either culture, I failed at both.  I didn’t have the cool clothes the white kids had at school and I couldn’t speak Chinese. 

Through making a few friends and some embarrassing moments, I learned that there really was no such thing as an American. We all come from different places and I learned that the other “cool” kids at school experienced the same things I experienced- just through a different cultural lens. What made us all American is that we were growing up together and learning about each other. That made us American.

I’m developing the story now and am very excited about it.

2) How_To_Pee_GirlsIf you could give your Asian American kid readers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Read lots of different things. Reading is magical because it gives you the ability to look inside somebody else’s mind. Through reading, you’ll learn about different ideas and cultures. 

Read things that you like already but also try subjects that you many not think you are interested in. You’ll be surprised! 

3) Who is your favorite Asian American children’s author or illustrator right now (other than yourself)?How_To_Pee

Well, I have several, so I’ll list a few, ok? 

Dan Santat (Picture Books & Middle Grade) I love Sidekicks and of course Beekle.

Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series

Mariko & Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer.

About the Author:

Arree Chung is the author and illustrator of the popular picture book, Ninja!, which has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal and has been named one of Amazon’s best books for 2014. Ninja! was also named one of NPR’s best children’s books of 2014. Ninja!, Attack of the Clan the followup to Ninja! will be releasing in 2016, along with How to Pee: Potty Training for Girls and Fix-it Man. Arree has a two picture book contract with MacMillan and is also illustrating books from other publishers.

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Last of the Italy trip pics

More from Rome!

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More Rome pics

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Photos from my trip to Rome

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Venice From Above

Photos by my mom!

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More Photos from Venice

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Photos from my trip to venice!

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Photos from my trip to the Rosicrucian Gardens and Egyptian Museum

IMG_20150828_153031 Statue of Pythagoras, Rosicrucian Park, San Jose, California

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to California and turned it into a self-made writing retreat. My mom babysat the kids and I flew across the country and spent time writing. It was amazing! I also did a tiny bit of sight-seeing. If you’d like to see some of my photos to the Rosicrucian Peace Gardens and Egyptian Museum in San Jose, head on over to my tumblr page.

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What happened to the blog posts?!?

Hi guys– You may have noticed that I’ve been a little behind on blog posts lately! I’ve just been super busy with writing projects, with maintaining the boskidlit calendar, and as you know, I’m now a We Need Diverse Books Team Member.

We Need Diverse Books started off as a viral hashtag last year, and after the enormous worldwide response on social media, the organizers turned it into a charitable organization with grants and awards and more. Because this is such a worthy cause, I’ve been helping out there with their amazing twitter account. So if you’re on twitter, be sure to follow @diversebooks. I’ve been doing this such a short time and have already been blown away by just how enthusiastic people are about this groundbreaking organization!

How can you get involved with WNDB? Check out the website for more information!


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Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Aisha Saeed, Author of Written in the Stars

Aisha SaeedThis week on my blog, I have Aisha Saeed, author of the debut YA novel Written in the Starsa contemporary YA novel about Naila, a Pakistani-American girl whose conservative immigrant parents push her towards marriage and away from the perfect boy she’s fallen in love with at school. I found this book completely compelling and relatable even from the very first page, so I was excited that Aisha Saeed found time to answer some of my questions. (Seriously, check out her bio! She is one busy lady!)

1) Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?9780399171703_Written_in_the_Stars

I feel I identify the most with my main character Naila. In Written in the Stars you see that her parents do love her a great deal and she loves them too, but that they are stricter than the traditional American parents are. She can’t date, she can’t go to prom, she can’t even go to events where boys might be. This was very similar to my own upbringing. While the rest of the story departs from my own personal journey once her parents discover she has a boyfriend and the consequences that follow, her initial home life mirrors my own very much. Like Naila, I loved my parents deeply but I also would get frustrated at the restrictions I had.

2) If you could give your Asian American kid readers one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you like seeing books with people who resemble you in some small way in the books you read, make sure to buy them, or get them from the library, and talk them up with your friends. The more you support the authors who write the books you want to read, the more books they will be able to produce, it’s as simple as that!

For Asian American kid readers who also want to write my biggest advice would be to keep pursuing this. Read voraciously and write with discipline on a regular routine. We need more diverse authors and the best way to become an author is to spend a great deal of time honing your craft.

3) Who is your favorite Asian American children’s author right now (other than yourself)?

I will read anything Jhumpa Lahiri writes. Seriously, if she put out a collection of her grocery store lists, I would be first in line to purchase them. I love the depth of her writing, her vivid story telling. Seeing her book on bookshelves was the first time I realized that perhaps people may care about South Asian stories. It was her book, Interpreter of Maladies, that helped me to overcome my fears and start trying to write the book out on bookshelves today.

About the Author:

Aisha Saeed is an author, mama, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books™, a grassroots non-profit dedicated to creating essential changes in the publishing industry. While Aisha loves writing about a variety of topics, her main passion lies in channeling her inner teen. Her debut YA novel Written in the Stars was released March 2015 Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. She is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency. When Aisha isn’t writing or chasing her two little boys, you can find her reading, baking, doodling henna patterns, or daydreaming about eight consecutive hours of sleep. You can connect with Aisha at her website, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr.

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