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Showing posts from January, 2014

In Which ALA Booklist Features A Chat With Me

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I'm grateful to the American Library Association's Booklist and Dr. Amina Chaudhri for featuring me and my books in the January 2014 issue, with Common Core connections.

Do We Need "Bridge" Characters in Global Books for Kids?

When challenged by others as to why he focuses on stories about foreigners working in African countries, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof responds with the idea that "bridge" characters are needed to draw readers into a story.


Post by The New York Times.




The rules must be different in the world of global children's literature. Kristof makes two assumptions that don't work for me: (1) that readers won't be able to connect with stories unless you include an American, and (2) that his readers are American.

In three of my four books set overseas (Secret Keeper, Rickshaw Girl and Bamboo People), I didn't include "bridge" foreigners. Why? I trust young readers to connect with characters of a different culture. And since I grew up "between cultures," I never assume that my reader is staunchly in the majority culture. I like to ask how the story would be received by a child within that culture as well as by North American readers, and…

Help My Class Answer Four Questions From The Margins About Book Awards

Today in my "Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Stories" class at Saint Mary's College of California, we took a look at the winners of the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award. We began to ask four questions:
Do any of the winning books or honorees feature a main character belonging to a group that has endured oppression in North America due to race or culture?Are any of the winning books or honorees set in a non-Western country?Are any of the main characters from an economically powerless family or subculture?Did any of the winning authors/illustrators grow up on the margins of power when it comes to race, culture, and/or class? Setting aside the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpré awards for a moment, can you help us answer these questions?

Note #1: In my author hat, I'm thrilled for all of the winners and so proud to see children's books making headlines. Congratulations, one and all! But in teacher mode, I am encouraging a focus on marginalized and powerless child…

Questions for Gene Luen Yang, Author of BOXERS AND SAINTS

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Today I'm thrilled to host Gene Yang, one of the contributors to Open Mic Anthology (Candlewick), via skype in my Jan Term class at Saint Mary's College of California. My students have prepared questions to ask him, and here are a few:

Do you find that because of your background as a Chinese-American, you have integrated your own characteristics into some of the characters? Especially because of your ancestry, do you feel a connection with the characters you have created?
Have you ever been criticized for not having an authentic-enough experience to write your stories, considering you are Chinese-American? If yes, what is your response to critics?
What made you write about the Boxer Rebellion? What is more special about this event than others in Chinese history that made you spend precious time on this subject?
What kind of research did you have to do to make the story more authentic since you were originally born in California? Was your upbringing more American or Chinese and …

Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Stories

Once again, my Jan Term course at Saint Mary's College of California called "Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Stories" is underway. Here's the first part of my syllabus:

Why are children’s stories so powerful? Who has the right to tell stories about marginalized communities? This course will explore the question of authenticity in storytelling and unmask explicit and implicit messages about race, power, and culture communicated through books for young readers. A secondary course goal is to help students improve their analytical writing.
Part One: The Subversive Power of Children’s StoriesPart Two: Race in Children’s StoriesPart Three: Culture in Children’s StoriesPart Four: Power in Children’s Books Alison Lurie, author of Don’t Tell The Grown-ups: The Subversive Power of Children’s Literature makes this argument about how children’s books can affect the common good:
The great subversive works of children's literature suggest that there are other views of…