Wednesday, May 16, 2018

community bookshops in Wayland, MA!

I know I have neglected this poor blog, but something so lovely happened this last month that I know I needed to share!  Remember the Community Bookshop project I did at Rain Dragon's preschool? The little-free-library-but-with-a diversity-angle bookshelves I helped to create with her school's Diversity Committee?  That project that was SO important to me because I feel like we need to be able to talk about race with our kids? Well, after I posted and shared the idea online, I was invited to come to Wayland, MA where I helped to open:



THREE more Community Bookstops!

Aren't they beautiful? Apparently, Wayland's awesome  reading specialist Debra Pellerin heard the project and helped spearhead community bookstops for her district (she's the one in the blue and white striped dress in the photos, everyone give her a round of applause)!

Isn't that great? For me, it just warms my heart so much to see the idea of the community bookstop spreading. I hope it inspires other places and schools! It seems like a small thing, but I truly believe that sharing these books are one of the seeds to creating a more welcoming, connected and strong community.

Yay for the community of Wayland!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Pre-order "A Big Mooncake for Little Star" and get...

an exclusive and only-from-me MOON CALENDAR!

I'm printing up a limited edition of special 2019 Moon Calendars, featuring the art from A Big Mooncake for Little Star! They are going to be beautiful, even if I do say so myself! And one can be yours! All you have to do is pre-order my book from Porter Square Books and you'll receive it along with your personally signed book (make sure you say in the order form to whom you wish the book to be signed to!).

These Moon Calendars are only available from me as part of this pre-order campaign and only while supplies last, so order NOW! Offer ends August 25th.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Save the Date!

I know summer seems a long time away, but I really want you save the date for my book launch! Yes, A Big Mooncake for Little Star will finally be coming out and I want to have a grand celebration for it.

Sunday, August 26th at 3pm
Porter Square Books
25 White St, Cambridge MA

If you pre-order from Porter Square, there will to be a special pre-order gift...stay tuned to find out what!

So, SAVE THE DATE! Hope to see you in August!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

the wrong question

A couple of months ago, I decided that I would take my five-year old daughter with me to the local Women’s March. Since my explanations were not as clear as I wanted, I searched for children’s book to help me explain the Women’s March to her. Unfortunately, the only one I found was a shallow story of a girl with a pink hat that removed almost all of political aspects of the March. And it was written by a man.

Now, I’m sure the author is probably a nice guy. I have no idea but I’m imagining that maybe he marched with his wife and daughter and was so moved by what he experienced that he felt there should be a book about it and thought, “I’m a writer! I can write the book about this.”  And, so he did.

But, while he might have had good intentions, his actions have a jarring impact. The purpose of the Women’s March was to have women’s voices be heard, to amplify women’s viewpoints. Having a man publish the first (and currently only) children’s book about it not only means that he is speaking for women but has also eliminated that possibility for a woman writer. Now, no woman writer will have the opportunity to publish first book about the Women’s March and reap the marketing, publicity benefits and possible publishing power that doing so entails.  His action of creating this book is the antithesis of his subject matter.

And this ties into the issues of diversity as well. I am constantly asked by white writers if they can write outside their race. “Imagining other viewpoints is why I am an author,” they tell me, “Why can’t I write about someone that doesn’t look like me?”

And at this, I have to tell them they are asking the wrong question. Because, of course, a writer can write about whomever he or she wishes. When it comes to writing outside ones’ race the question has never been, “Can I write this?” No, the real question is “Should I write this?”

Because, sure, a man can write about the Women’s March. He’s already done it, obviously. But should he have? If a man sincerely believes in all that the Women’s March was and what it is trying to accomplish, he would be truer to those beliefs by allowing a woman to write the book about it.

Likewise, if writers believe in racial equity in our writers community, they would be truer to those beliefs by realizing that there are some stories that are better for others to tell.  

I know, some will say, “You snooze, you lose!” with the idea that if one comes up with a great idea, one has privilege to write it.  Because, yes, since this man came up with the idea to write about the Women’s March and had the immediate power to bring it fruition, technically it was within his rights to do so.  But, if we are authors who believe in the importance of children’s literature--if we are the one nodding at conferences when someone proclaims “Our books save lives!” or cheering when a librarian states “Books can change the world,” then I think we should hold ourselves to higher standard.

Recently, looking for the Asian equivalent of The SnowyDay, I remembered the work of Taro Yashima, the creator of the children’s book classic Umbrella.  “There should be a book on him,” I thought. Because of the privilege of my past publishing record and relationships, I felt fairly confident that if I were to write a book about Taro Yashima well enough, I could probably get it published.

But, should I write it? I might be Asian, but my ethnicity is Taiwanese and Taro Yashima is Japanese. Of all people, I should know there is a difference--in fact, I inwardly bristle when others are unaware of the differences.  So with that realization, I decided not to try to write it myself. Instead, I posted the idea on facebook and brought it to the attention of some Japanese authors and illustrators that I knew. And then I let it go.

Because I have to believe that we can let some ideas go. We can offer them to others and move on. Or if can't move on, we can try to co-write with or mentor someone less privileged. None of us can be so lacking in ideas that we can’t share or let some of them go. We don’t have to be the one that writes every good idea that comes to us.  

At the Women’s March, I was struck by all the signs everyone carried. Some were witty, some heartbreaking and some angry, but all seemed deeply felt. If the sincerity is genuine, we need to bring it past the marches and decorative pins, and into all aspects of our lives—especially when we choose what to write and what not to write.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Cold Weather Craft

Brr! It's cold here in New England! But when life gives us bitter cold, we make colored balls of ice!*

It's so easy and so fun! Want to do it to? 

balloons (the inexpensive helium quality kind)
food coloring
a sink with a faucet you can get the balloon around

1.  Mix food coloring of your choice with a small amount of water (2-3 tablespoons) in a cup. Stir it up.

2. Using the funnel, put the colored water into the balloon.

3: Affix the balloon opening to your faucet. Fill balloon with water, slowly.  So that it does't accidentally fall off and make a mess, best to hold the balloon with one hand underneath for support and your other hand holding where the balloon is attached to the  faucet.

4: When the balloon is at your desired size (we made ours about the size as a large grapefruit), detach from the faucet an tie  shut (like a water balloon). Repeat with different colors as desired.

5: Bring the balloon outside and leave overnight.  If possible, do not leave in the snow (we put ours on the porch). If you do put them in the snow, make sure you turn them over sometime in the night as the snow makes a blanketing affect and half of your balloon may not freeze.

6: After the balloons are frozen, take off the the balloon from the ice. After an initial cut the r rubber, it should peel easily

and then, Voila!

Beautiful colored ball of ice! You can make a rainbow!

And the cold weather is suddenly a lot more fun...

*special thanks to Anna Alter for the idea

Sunday, October 8, 2017

ok, let's talk about Dr. Seuss...

So, I've been avoiding the whole Dr. Seuss debacle , as I know the authors involved and I imagine (especially after vicious trolling myself), they probably just want the issue to die away. But the story keeps getting bigger, and recently someone on a friend's Facebook page said how he thought Mo Willems was being a hypocrite for accepting the Theodor Geisel Award from the American Library Association, yet boycotting the museum event.

Lord knows, Mo Willems doesn't need me to defend him, but here's the thing. I received the Theodor Geisel Honor as well and I, too, would've boycotted the museum event. And I don't think it's hypocritical.

So, let's do some background. Theodor Geisel is Dr. Seuss. All children's book creators worth their salt know the history of the industry's greats and almost all of us know Dr. Seuss. So, while most of the mass public doesn't realize this, we know that Dr. Seuss's early career is filled with creations of racist propaganda. He drew horrible stereotypes against Jews, African-Americans--you name it. One of his more egregious cartoons depicted Japanese Americans lining up to receive bombs.

It was 1942, a time where anti-Asian paranoia was at in full tilt. Geisel was a product of his time and  reflecting what people were feeling.

However, as time passed, Geisel began to regret his earlier images. It is widely accepted that his beloved book, "Horton Hears a Who!" was his way of apologizing for his earlier art. He went on to write books like "The Sneetches," stories with themes of inclusion and tolerance.

And that is what makes Geisel a good man and artist. Because he was willing to grow from his original mindset, realize the harm the his work could do and get better. That is why he is an artist I am honored to receive an award with his namesake on and why he deserves a museum.

Now, for the museum controversy. The image that is displayed is from Geisel's first book, "And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street" printed in 1937, the same time Geisel was doing his racist cartoons. "The Chinaman" image that is being debated initially had the character bright yellow and with a long pigtail. In 1978, acknowledging that the image could be offensive, Geisel himself changed it so that the character is white and without a pigtail.*

It is now 2017. Even with the character being white and without a pigtail, a great many people (myself included) wince at the caricature.  My first reaction is, "Do we really need to see that now? Of all the images of this man's work, do we really need to show this one?"

And, in a Seuss museum, the answer could be yes. However, the answer is only yes if the image is put in context. Viewers need to know, and honestly Geisel himself deserves, an explanation. They need to know Geisel's history with his own art and with this particular image.  To display it without context (which, I daresay is a museum's job) reduces the image to mere decoration.  And, to many (myself included) an offensive decoration**.

I was not asked to participate in the museum's event, but I cannot fathom trying to read my books in front of the Chinaman caricature presented as it is now. To do an event with this image right behind me, without acknowledging its racism and Geisel's journey away from it, would be pretty insulting. I would have declined to have participate. Just like Mo Willems.

Yet, I proudly display the sticker with Geisel's image on my book.

What is the difference? It's different to me, because when you accept the award it is a picture of Theodor Geisel on the medal; not any of his past racist art--the medal and award is symbolic of him as a whole person. The ceremony is with educated, adult librarians, whom I assume know or should know the history of the him.

The Seuss museum and the event there is for kids and adult who are not aware of Geisel's history. They are at the museum to learn about him and the museum refuses to teach this part of his past. Instead they just show the racist image as decoration. I would not accept the invitation because they are allowing the racist image to stand as a racist image instead of showing it as a part of Geisel's regrettable past.

I honor the Theodor Geisel as a man who outgrew his racism and created some of the best books of children's literature of all time. And without an explanation, I abhor the single image that is displayed.

Which is why I don't think Mo Willems is a hypocrite. And I don't think I am one either.

*Which leaves me with this question--now, forty years later, if Geisel was still alive--don't you think it would be a possibility that he would change it again? If he was willing to do it once because time had changed his mind, what do you think another forty years would do?

**Is this image offensive? Let's break down a couple responses to this question.  (fyi, I edited this from my initial posting to add a few more thoughts)

Response #1: "I loved this book, and I'm fine!" (sometimes with the additional, "and I'm Asian!")
Okay, that is great for you. I'm happy you are fine and it didn't bother you. But there are lots of people who images like this hurt, trust me. I am one of them and I have bunch of readers who will say the same. Maybe you weren't teased that your eyes were so small that dental floss could blindfold you, but that doesn't mean I wasn't.  Can you at least acknowledge that it is offensive to some people and for good reason? And if you can't find it within yourself to find a little empathy, then perhaps those images affected you more than you think.

Response #2: "This is history! How dare you try to erase it!"
You are mixing up nostalgia for history.  No one asked for the mural to be removed, the museum decided to do that themselves because they were unwilling to put the art in context---think about that. The museum would rather take the whole mural down than put a caption that acknowledged Geisel's true history.  Here, I’ll even write the caption for you: 

 “This image of “the Chinaman” was originally printed in 1937 with yellow skin and a pigtail. In 1978, Dr. Seuss, himself, changed the image, acknowledging that his original rendition could be offensive. It is probable, that now, over 39 years later, that if he were alive he would change the image again.”

 There, fixed the whole thing! It’s 52 words. Yes, it’s longer than a tweet, but I think it would take about 3 inches space, max. Why was this so hard to add?  Why aren't you offended that instead of adding 52 words, the museum decided to take the entire thing down? Isn't a museum's job to educate and put things in context for the viewer? 

The artists in question here asked for the art to be put in context.  If anything, the artists were trying to give a more accurate view of history. 

p.s. I've disabled comments for my blog because I am tired of trolls.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


I'm giving a couple talks ("Putting the Books to Work" and "The Books are Not Enough") and these are the resources I mention. Posting this here for any attendees that need it:

Places to Help Find Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books website
Our Story Book Discovery App
Nerdy Book Club
Lots of links from Lee & Low

Ways to Bring Diversity into Your Child's Reading Life

The BookStop (posts include the reading suggestion sheets text and the booklist):

Selling Diversity Cheat Sheet:

If you like this classic book, you'll like this diverse one:

WNDB Summer Reading Series:

Reading Without Walls Reading Challenge:

Grace's TEDxtalk:

Creative Activities to Do with Grace's Books

Activity Book and Event Kit (Go on Minli's Journey) for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon:

Readers' Theater with Starry River of The Sky and more:

Elaborate Readers' Theater (for the ambitious) and activities for When the Sea Turned to Silver:

One Book Programs with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon:

Ways Grace's books have been integrated in schools:

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Books are Not Enough

I've been thinking a lot about activism lately, and I'm starting to believe that small activism, at a local level, might be the key to a brighter future. So, I've organized an event at my local library-- a presentation about diversity in children's books: why it's important and how we can use them.

If you live in Western MA, please spread the word, tell your kids' teachers & librarians and come! Honestly, I'm a little scared people won't show up--even though I do many, many presentations, I usually don't organize these things, so I'm wearing a slightly different hat here! But I do know that when these events are poorly attended, it sends a message that it doesn't matter. Please help me show that these things matter.

The Books are Not Enough:
Windows, Mirrors and the Bookshelves of Our Community
Forbes Library (upstairs in the Coolidge Museum)
Wednesday, November 1st at 6pm
20 West St, Northampton MA
When we talk about diversity in books, we often talk about "windows and mirrors." But what does that mean? Why is it important? And, if we can agree that diversity in children’s books is important, can we do more than pay it lip service? How can we use these books to help create a more accepting and welcoming community?
In this extended presentation of her popular TEDx talk, Newbery Honor author Grace Lin shares childhood anecdotes, personal publishing experiences and strategies to support diversity through children’s books. 
Librarians, Teachers and Parents welcome!

Want to help spread the word? Downloadable flyer here:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

my humble opinion on PBS

Yes, that was me...

Did you miss seeing me on PBS last month? I was on the PB NewsHour, sharing my humble opinion about potentially racist classic children's books. I actually didn't think my position was that controversial but after it aired I received a lot of...well, let's just say it was a lot more controversial than I thought. You can make your own opinion after watching:

However, even with the unpleasant feedback, I do stand by my position. Whether you agree or disagree with my "Little House" example (yes, Ma was scared of Indians because she was a settler--but her hatred of them was portrayed as far stronger than that of Pa's or Laura's who were also settlers, so I--as an 8 year old girl-- took that to be racism), I hope that my real message of simply talking to your kids about the books they are reading can be one we don't have to disagree on.