Saturday, May 27, 2017

this is 5!

The  eggs were filled and inspected:

then hidden amongst the decorated yard:

which, of course, included ducks:

Because it was time for Rain Dragon's Red Egg Birthday Hunt again! She's five years old and the red egg hunt is now officially a tradition, with kids standing at the ready:

for the big signal:

to GO!:

This year's  red egg hunt was fast and fierce:

But everyone made out like bandits:

And there was still enough energy to celebrate with cake:
Cake made by Auntie Christine, the fondant rainbow shapes on top are "barnacles" requested by Rain Dragon

Make a wish, Rain Dragon!

  And Happy 5th Birthday!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

small activism

Recently, I received an award. It was not for my books nor for my writing and it was given, by all places, by my local cooperative & awesome grocery store, the River Valley Coop. But it was extremely important. Because this award was a grant to help fund a project that I am as passionate about as any of my books.

Because I'm helping Rain Dragon's school (with the River Valley grant) build a Community Book Stop! It will be a free little library in the foyer of the school that will feature diverse books.

But, there's more!  To help conversations & build community, we’re adding gluing in a reading tip sheet in the front of the book (ex: Don’t be afraid to bring up challenging topics) and a blank booklet on the back so parents can record their thoughts and ideas. It's going to be great!

I can't wait for this project to get off the ground! Stay tuned for more....

Monday, May 15, 2017

on my desk monday

I just finished the sketch for a charity art project. I'll put this up for sale the week of the 4th of July and give the money to Donor's Choose!

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.