We still have a few more days of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and I’m sharing a few of the reasons I started to publish. One of my dreams when I started writing and illustrating children’s books was to expand the local bookshelves because I never saw the faces of children like myself in magazines or books. The kind of beautiful I was shown didn’t have my Asian eyes, my dark hair, or my shorter stature. Everything was blue-eyed, blond, and model tall.
Yes, I was introduced to folk stories from other countries or adoption books but the fiction section in all genres didn’t represent someone like me – as a character or an author. I couldn’t remember any main stream children’s or adult books with someone who had a face like mine.
As a writer, I decided to do something about it. I created Asian characters that go through life’s adventures, and used words for pictures. I don’t point out with arrows that my characters are Asian or make that the point of my books. But they are the kind of books I wish I had growing up a small town where there was no one else who looked like me. Why?
I didn’t spell out the difference in the writing of the story because people shouldn’t ask where I’m from – meaning which country – because I’m American. That should be their first thought but it isn’t. I have to sigh, do them the once over while being Minnesota nice and not ask them if they’re an idiot. Then, I go into my talk track and stress the words Heritage vs Nationality. And I try not to roll my eyes because I shouldn’t have to explain in the first place.
The point is that I made the characters main stream. They’re children who dream of adventures like any other child but the pictures speak for themselves. The stories do try to inspire and give encouragement to any dreamer but finally the illustrations and the author page represents more of America, not just some.
The big dream – I hope that others can hit the buy button, feel inspired to go after their dreams, push the boundaries to create what is “normal”, and feel more confident in who they are even if they don’t look like everyone else. To me, those kinds of dreams are why writers need to tell their stories – because you might set off a change reaction that inspires.
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