Monday, May 15, 2017

on my desk monday

I just finished the sketch for another special project. I'm joining a charity art project called For All: Stars for America's Children. Children's illustrators are making art using a star shape and the original art will be auctioned off (via the Facebook link) to benefit DonorsChoose. See all the finished art and bid on July 4th (4th of July)!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

mother's day and the lace dress

When I was about 9 or 10, I remember going shopping with my mother. We were visiting relatives in NJ and taking advantage of their "real" shopping mall. At one of the big department stores, I fell in love with a dress--layers of white lace, frothy and full. To me it was the dress of a dream, more luxurious and fine than anything in real life. I asked my mother if we could get it. She looked at the price tag and her face shadowed. My  heart sank and I I knew she was going to say no. It was too expensive, too frivolous, too unnecessary. But, before a word left her lips she looked and me and hesitated. And then, to my great surprise, she nodded and said yes.

I wore that dress to a school concert, where I sang in the choir. They had chose nine students to stand in the front of the stage to sing and I was one of them. I sang right in the center and as I sang, I saw an older woman nudge her partner and nod towards me. My heart sank. I probably looked weird.  What was I, this Asian girl a million years away from a fairy-tale princess, doing wearing a dress like this?

But when the song finished and we walked down the aisle of the auditorium, the woman caught my eye and said, "You look lovely! Your dress is beautiful!"

Then, a warm heat filled me--embarrassment but also happiness. For that one moment, in that dress, I could let myself believe I was really pretty--a rare feat for any preteen, but an especially difficult one for me, who had always felt my Asian features precluded me from the adjective. (Also from that moment on, lace dresses were forever seen with affection, no matter how unstylish or ridiculed they were. Both my wedding dresses were lace.)

I've been thinking about that memory a lot recently.  I asked my mom what made her change mind; and she doesn't even remember buying the dress. And, to be honest, I don't even remember thanking her for it. But, somehow, maybe because it's Mother's Day and I have a girl of my own, the memory of that lace dress means more to me than ever. To me, it symbolizes a moment where I could see how my mom loved me. Not because she bought me something, but because I saw clearly how she went against her first impulse. She set aside her instinctive, immigrant frugality because she wanted to make me happy. And she did.

Thanks, Mom! Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

the problem with celebrating Tikki Tikki Tembo

So,  Bookselling this Week, a newsletter for the American Booksellers Association includes a letter from author Jacqueline Davies regarding the inclusion of Tikki Tikki Tembo as a nominee for their "Picture Book Hall of Fame" and also linked to a post of my own from 2012

While no one asked me to share my concerns with the members of the ABA, I wish they had. If they had, I would have said this:

Dear ABA Booksellers,

Hello! There’s a good chance you are sick of the topic that I am about to broach, that you are rolling your eyeballs and you are secretly thinking, “Who cares?”  And in many ways, I don’t blame you.

But the truth is, I care. I care a lot.*

Because, I know you have heard from friends, colleagues and other authors and have gotten all the links. I know they have all given you calm, rational reasons in an unbiased manner. But I thought it might be good to hear from me, an Asian-American who truly cares about this from the core of her identity.

I was thrilled when I learned that my book When the Sea Turned to Silver was nominated this year for an E.B. White Read-Aloud award. However, when I saw that Tikki Tikki Tembo was a nominee for the Hall of Fame, I was dismayed for all the reasons you probably already know: the book is not an authentic folktale as it claims and, by using an untrue tradition and made-up/incorrect words, it creates false Chinese culture.**

Am I being too sensitive? Possibly. The refrain I hear often is, “My friend is Chinese, and she loved the book! It’s not offensive!”  We all know that what one person finds heartbreaking, another can find hilarious. I would never expect anyone's reading experience to mirror my own.

So, I do not believe the book should banned. I do not believe people should stop selling it. But, I also do not believe the book should be celebrated. By voting Tikki Tikki Tembo into the Hall of Fame, it sends a message that this book is one to revere and emulate. 

We are all in this business because we love books. At every conference I go to, someone somewhere will say, “These books save lives!”  However, if we allow ourselves the satisfaction that the books we share can help, we must also realize that books can also harm.  And the harm that a book like this can create is not only individual. It’s not just the Asian girl cringing because all her classmates are chanting fake Chinese at her or the boy with the last name of Chang teased for being “nothing.” No, the bigger harm in celebrating a book such as this is that it reinforces the idea that another person’s culture, my culture, is valued so little that we don’t even need to bother to get it right. 

And that is why I care. I hope you do, too.

Thank you so much for your consideration.


Grace Lin

*For those of you interested, I invite you to watch my TEDx talk:

**Those of you who know my books might say, “Hey, Grace Lin, aren’t you being a bit of hypocrite? Aren’t your books a mishmash of Chinese folktales, as well?”  While there is some validity to that, I would say that it is because of the books I do that I have such an emotional reaction to Tikki Tikki Tembo's flaws. My books are Asian-inspired fantasies. I’ve heavily researched them so that, to my knowledge, they are all based in Chinese folklore. And with them, I try to create something new--like growing from a seed. I try to grow the myths to fit with our culture--to create something I see as Asian-American. 

Tikki Tikki Tembo, to me, does the opposite. It took a non-Chinese story and pretended that it was old and authentic, added bogus traditions and words; and, in doing so, misrepresents Chinese culture.

To me, there is difference.

Monday, April 24, 2017

windows and mirrors

This is the height of my school visit season, so I've found it hard to squeeze in creative work. But the good people of the New England Children's Bookseller's Advisory Council asked if I would design a logo for their "Windows and Mirrors" project; I knew I had to find the time. Obviously, from all my TEDx blathering, this initiative to highlight diverse books is close to my heart. So after many way-too-complicated-and-not-great ideas, I came up with this:

It's not the final version (and the title may change), but I'm hoping it works...I kind of like it. What do you think?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

spring is here

Piglet is moving in to his house again! (Totoro moved out last year) 

The house has been renovated, with landscaping:

Happy Spring!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cross your fingers for me!

I mentioned this on my Facebook page but wanted to post it here, too--especially as I am trying to revitalize this blog (as an aside, I just saw somewhere that that blogging is the "Blockbuster video" of social media! Oh well, I guess I am just committed to dying forms of communication!). I have some super cool news!!

When the Sea Turned to Silver is a finalist for the EB White Read Aloud Award! I'm very honored, not only because this sticker is maybe the most awesome-looking of any of the awards but because it is chosen and given by independent booksellers. I love independent bookstores, my local ones  kind of become my second home. I was so devoted to my old indie bookstore that I had my launch party there even though I moved two hours away--and it was so completely worth it.

Unfortunately for me (but not the world), the competition is pretty stiff so I'm not going to get my hopes too high. Like they say at the Oscars, it's just an honor to be nominated!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

I've never had a good result coloring eggs--in my youth, we used those kits with the wire holders and the dye tablets and the colors were always disappointing. I finally came to the conclusion that the brightly colored eggs in magazines and photos were somehow faked.

But this year, Rain Dragon wanted to color "really bright" eggs, so I decided to follow internet directions as close to the letter as possible. Cool the eggs in ice water! 20 drops of food coloring!  Well, I am happy to report that, for once, the internet told the truth. Our eggs were the most colorful I've ever made them:

and were the "bright eggs" of Rain Dragon's dreams:

Which meant, of course, we had to have an egg hunt with them--We always have a Red Egg hunt for her birthday but she said she wanted to "practice." So, I hid our seven eggs (was aiming for lucky number eight but one broke):

And she and her bunny dashed to find them:

and had a happy Easter!

Hope you had one, too!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Another Awesome School

So, I have a big backlog of awesome school photos. These schools worked so hard to make me feel welcome, I must share...even if a bit belatedly. This is from a school in West Bloomfield, MI--where all the classes decorated their doors in my honor!

Most of the older grades chose Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as their theme. Aren't they beautiful?

Here are a couple close ups:

Most of the younger grades chose from Ling & Ting books.  Ling and Ting Share a Birthday was particularly popular; I think the last story about the underwear as birthday gift was what did it. This class illustrated every story on their door:

see the underwear?

While this class made birthday cards:

While others displayed the cutest drawings:

One class chose Dim Sum for Everyone! and I think their door looks good enough to eat!

But the icing on the cake was the huge mural in the library--where a mountain, moon and orange goldfish created from tissue paper awaited me:

As well as all the students' ideas of what the secret to happiness is:

I don't know which one is the right answer but the school sure did make this author happy! Thanks so much, West Bloomfield!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Beautiful Board!

More old school visit photos! This one was from the Winthrop School, another school that did a One Book, One School read of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Unfortunately, the only photo I took was of their bulletin board welcoming me in, but it's such a good one I have to share:

It's the Village of Moon Rain 

but instead of raining seeds, it's raining Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!

Pretty neat, huh?

Monday, April 3, 2017

One Book, One Read, One Awesome School!

I've been remiss with this blog, I know. I've found it hard to get back into the swing of social media-- puttering and stalling, then repeat. But life has continued even though I haven't been posting and that includes my school visits. And I've had some pretty amazing ones! 

This one was so awesome, it deserved it's own post. It happened back in January in New Boston, NH where they had a One Book, One School, One Year read of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon! I can't tell you how much I hearted it. 

The school did so many incredible projects. This one was particularly touching. A teacher actually made the Minli's coat of patches (the one where all the Villagers of Moon Rain each cut a piece of their own sleeve to piece together...and the one Pinmei wears in When the Sea Turned to Silver):

and then each child in her class wore the coat and  wrote about  how they themselves would help someone who was in need:

It makes me get all watery-eyed,  thinking about it...

And there were other amazing projects, too! Much more!  Sometimes I wonder how my middle grade book will work with the younger grades...well, here, it worked beautifully!

The Kindergarten made Minli ABC's:

and observations about Dragon:

as well as illustrated and shared their favorite parts of the book:

The 1st and 2nd graders used the book as an opportunity practice their use of adjectives (as well as make some cool tissue art):

And the 3rd graders thought about their own personal fortunes:

As well as questions for me!

I'm not sure what grade this was but everyone enjoyed studying and sharing their "red thread" connections:

While the older grades mapped out Minli's journey:

and wrote their own Dragon stories:

Event the PTA participated:

Thanks so much to all!