Award-winning children’s author Grace Lin, remembers the early days of her book tours around the country.
“I do a lot of school visits, and early in my career I would go to these schools in Wisconsin or Texas, and they’d be like, ‘Oh, you speak English so well,’” she said.
“They didn’t mean it in a horrible way or a way that we would take offense immediately. It was just that they had never been exposed to an Asian-American, you know. With that hyphen”
Lin, who grew up in upstate New York is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator. Her books feature Asian American characters and stories inspired by her Chinese American up bringing.
Her debut novel, “The Ugle Vegetables”, published in 1999, was praised for its diverse narrative. It was also the beginning of her so-called accidental journey as an author of Asian American literature.
Flash forward to 2014 and she is once again fighting for diversity. She, along with several authors of color, including Jacqueline Woodson and Matt De La Pena, are part of a campaign that went viral dubbed #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
Asian American young adult authors Aisha Saeed and I.W. Gregorio are also part of this campaign. Organizers, argue that even with a growing minority population, the number of children’s books about children of color or written by authors of color has not kept pace.
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center studied 3,600 titles in 2012 and found: 3.3 were about African American, 2.1% about Asian Pacific Americans, 1.5% about Latinos and less than 1% about Native Americans. Theses titles are also hard to find at local bookstore and libraries.
“I think there is a running myth in publishing that books about people of color do not sell, and that keeps a lot of booksellers from stocking them in the bookstores,” said Jason Lee, founder of Lee and Low , a multicultural publishing company.
“So what you have is sort of a vicious cycle that happens: That if the books are not stocked in the bookstores, then of course they’re not gonna sell, right? So they’re saying, ‘Oh, look. They don’t sell!’ Well, you never stocked them in the first place.”
You can watch the full story on CUNY-TV’s Asian American Life. This month’s show also features Asian Americans breaking the bamboo ceiling at universities and colleges. Correspondent Minnie Roh interviews the presidents of Seton Hall University and Ursinus College who are both making history. Other segments include a look at Indian American students dominating national spelling bees and an interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Poet Vijay Seshadri.
To stay-up-to date on Asian American life follow the show on twitter @AALCUNYTV and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/asianamericanlife.
(Editor Note: Ernabel Demillo is a former television news anchor in New York and host of Asian American Life.