Tuesday, December 8, 2009

4 minutes, 58 seconds of fame

So, Thursday night, the night before my Today Show appearance, I slept very badly. I had a bad dream that I was on my way to the TV studio when I tripped and fell into a muddy pond...and then had to go on air with half covered in mud. Also, Mo Willems was the guest before me. Yes, it was a nightmare and not a very subtle one.

But, luckily, it was just a dream (though I had to repeat that to myself a couple of times in the morning), and any part of it that wanted to come to fruition was thwarted by my trusty accompanying entourage:

my publicist (well, not my publicist but rather my publisher's) Ames, my editor (well, not just my editor but other people's too) Alvina, and my agent (also shared) Rebecca. That's me in the red dress and the jade bracelet. If there had been any muddy ponds to be had, I feel confident they would have safely steered me away.

And if I had gotten muddy, the hair and make-up people would've taken care of it:

And when I met the kids from the book club, they were so sweet and enthusiastic that my anxiety about not being a super-famous author (like Mo) disappeared. They peppered me with questions that, under strict rules by the show, I did not answer. Apparently, if I answer the questions in the green room, the kids don't ask the good ones on TV (the kids' questions are not pre-screened, no one knows what they are going to ask). But I was allowed to sign the books.

and then we all got the call to the set...
and we were LIVE!!!
It went by so quickly! According to the youtube clip, it was exactly 4 minutes and 58 seconds. I was a bit surprised at some of the questions (they were not the ones they were asking in the green room) and I spent a good portion of my time thinking that I had to stop my legs from jiggling. However, in those few moments that my mind was calm, I marveled at the group.

The truth is, I think I have always put limitations on the appeal of my books. I've always thought my books were "Asian-niched" or "for girls" but for the first time, I realized how close-minded I've been about the audience that I write for. As we waited on set, the kids' excitement and enjoyment of my book was honest and real. "This book should be made into a movie," one boy said. "This book and that other blue cover book were the best ones we've read!" another said, the others echoing their approval. And then live, during the show, when one boy HAD to say, "By the way, I liked your book," before asking his question something clicked.

None of these kids were obviously Asian (I think one might have been a mix) and the boys were just as, if not more, enthusiastic than the girls. They did not think of my book as a Chinese book or a girl book. Those things didn't matter or even occur to them. This was just a book they enjoyed. It was perhaps the most truly multicultural moment I have ever had in my writing path so far-- a moment where the race and gender melted away, a moment that was so multicultural that the label faded away.

So, even if I never get my remaining 2 seconds of fame, I will always cherish the quality of my 4 minutes and 58 seconds.

Thanks, Book Club Kids!


jama said...

*wipes away tears at your "multicultural moment" remark*

What an amazing adventure, and how profound your 4 minutes 58 seconds was.

Thank you for helping to break some of the barriers many of us have been struggling with for so many years.

betsy said...

What a wonderful post, Grace! You did a beautiful job on the show.

My daughters are Chinese-American and may be your biggest fans. :D As their white mother I have looked high and low for books with main characters who look like them, and we own every one of your books. We can't thank you enough for the many gifts you have given our family.

That being said, your books hold universal appeal and most definitely are not just for Asian girls! Thank you for sharing your many talents with families everywhere.

Best wishes,
Mama to two of Ling and Ting's best friends (and we can't to read about them!)

janet wong said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I'm guilty of limiting the book's appeal (in my mind): I have bought only one copy of your book, and it was for a Chinese girl. She will love your book, but I should've bought copies for other kids (who are not Chinese girls)!

Your book clearly captivated all of those readers; even so, I'll bet that some of them would never have read your book if not for the show. This is a good reminder of the power of the teacher/librarian/book club host who physically puts non-obvious book choices into kids' hands (and heads, with read-alouds).

Grace Lin said...

Thanks, Ladies!
I've always been proud and satisfied when my books touch Asian-American girls, because that is what I was.

But isn't it strange that both Janet & I, as "multicultural" authors immediately pigeonhole our own books? When the whole idea of these kinds of books is to promote the enjoyment of diversity? I think kids are more open-minded about books than the authors that create them!

luckylibrarian said...

Let me assure you, as a children's librarian, that I recommend your books to everyone. I've been promoting Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to as many children and parents as possible. Everyone on my staff has chosen this as their favorite book for 2009!
I yearn for some kind of Newbery recognition for this book.