The Asian American Children’s Author blog series has come to an end! What was originally going to be summer series went all the way through to October. I interviewed 16 Asian American kid’s authors, asked them the same 3-4 questions (the 4th one was optional), and learned so much about them and myself in the process. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series too, and like me, are now completely excited by your to-read list!
For this final recap blog post, I’ve put together a list of the authors and included my favorite quotes from their interviews. Many of these are quotes from their “advice for Asian American readers” but there are some nuggets of writerly and readerly wisdom as well. Enjoy!
“I had a very tough childhood, one that I wouldn’t wish on anybody, so books were my saving grace. They helped me escape sometimes, but more often, they helped me empathize, and helped me remain a good and kind kid, despite all I went through.”
2) Emily Jiang
“Create art and build
bonds with people who get you.
Life without regrets.”
“In library class we picked a book from the shelf and sat down to read. When time was up we put it back. That was where I got my reading done. I am still a regular visitor at the local library. Find a book you like and read it. If you don’t like it, put it back and pick another.”
“There’s nothing like opening up a book and ‘seeing yourself’ — the character doesn’t have to look exactly like you or even be from your same cultural background to resonate with you, but it does feel terrific when a character reflects your family’s heritage, customs, language or experience.”
“Your life experience as an Asian American is interesting and worthy of sharing with others. Be authentic and be heard!”
“If you survive growing up “between cultures” you gain a big advantage as an adult. You will always be able to cross cultural borders easily and make yourself feel at home anywhere. You are becoming proficient in two cultures, which will enable you to acquire mastery of a third or fourth culture much faster than your monocultural peers.”
“If you have the opportunity to learn more about your cultural background, be it practicing the language or renewing ties with older relatives, take advantage of it. The opportunity won’t be there forever.”
8) Varsha Bajaj
“My advice to Asian American and all kid readers would be read with a open mind and heart and to read everything you can get your hands on.”
“I don’t think of myself as identifying with any of my characters. When I’m writing I’m simultaneously in their skins and at their sides, taking turns almost, dancing around inside the story and trying to bring it all to the page one or two layers at a time. Sometimes I’m close to a scene. At other times I may be hovering above the story trying to see its bigger picture. I have no time to stop and think about who I love most in that story. That’s not the way I see my job. I’m looking in many mirrors at once, playing with the story’s light and shadow and trying to figure out the lives of the fictional people I’m following.”
10) Fonda Lee
“I shake my head when I hear people say things like, “oh, I don’t read fiction” or “I don’t read YA” or “I don’t read comics.” There is something worthwhile, enlightening, or enjoyable about almost everything that is well done, and if you can appreciate it, it will open your mind to being a better reader and a better writer.”
11) Kashmira Sheth
“Read as much as you can. It may be difficult to find books that reflect your experience of being Asian American but all stories hold deeper truths from which you can learn. Also, listen to the stories your parents and grandparents tell you. Those stories will keep you connected to your past.”
12) Sheela Chari
“You don’t always have to read about characters that look different from you. On the same token, you don’t have read only one kind of book about Asian-Americans either – the horizon is opening up to include fantasy, mystery, adventure and even historical fiction. In the end, an interesting book can be about anybody in any circumstance, but it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open.”
13) Grace Lin
“…you will never be Asian and you will never be American. You will always be Asian-American. Don’t try to choose a side, because it is not a dividing line. And while there will definitely be points in your life where that hyphen between the two identities seem like it is subtracting from the other, in the end you’ll find it’s actually a wonderful bridge. Life with a hyphenated-identity is actually doubly richer.”
14) David Yoo
“…whenever an adult figure told the teen me not to sweat the small stuff, I’d always scoff/roll my eyes at them (behind their backs). That they considered the issues in my life small stuff I interpreted as proof that they were utterly clueless about what it’s like to be a teen… I still remember how pointless it was to tell a teenager to trust that things get better–no offense to the whole “It gets better” movement! Frankly, a kid doesn’t have the patience to feel happy knowing that, decades from now, things will turn around. That there will come a time when you look back on this sad or lonely or depressing moment and find humor in it, even. The only reason you appreciate things when you’re older is because you have more perspective on life, which you simply don’t have when you’re younger. So I hesitate to tell AA kid readers, hey, it’ll be all right, even though it’s true.”
15) Mike Jung
“…when I was a kid reader, I devalued my own identity as an Asian American. I lived in an overwhelmingly white community, I wanted very badly to fit in, and looking back now it’s easy to see all the little ways in which I accepted the idea that being Asian American was some kind of stain on my identity that needed to be removed or at least hidden. I hope my book, and all of my future books, will be helpful and positive to you in resisting that kind of impulse, and those pressures. Remember that your identity counts; remember that YOU count. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“…if you ever feel different, remember we’re all different in some way. Anything that makes you feel different is usually what will make you stronger and will probably turn out to be one of your best qualities.”
That’s all for now, folks!