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Finding Diversity in Children’s Books

You Are Not SmallKermit the Frog once said “It’s not easy being green.”

For kids of color, finding people like themselves represented in children’s books may be just as hard.

Two Asian American women are hoping to change that with their contributions to the children’s book industry.

Anna Kang’s award-winning You Are (Not) Small is a story inspired by her experience being bullied while growing up as a Korean American in Long Island.

Sailaja Joshi’s launched her publishing company Bharat Babies two years ago with a mission of producing developmental books reflective of India’s heritage.

The company’s first book Hanuman and the Orange Sun is expected to come out in May.  She talked to the Aerogram about the book’s main character, Harini.Hanuman and the Orange Sun

“We very much wanted Harini to have that dual identity,” said Joshi.  “We wanted Harini to eat a mix of Indian food and American food, and maybe interchange her English words with Telugu words or another Indian language because that dual identity was important to us.

“My daughter very clearly knows when it is her and when it is not her. She can tell the difference between a book that has a white boy with blue eyes and a book that has a brown girl with brown eyes. For her to see herself at the very basic level is critical so she can understand that her identity is represented in a larger culture and context.”

Like Joshi, Kang also thought of her daughters when producing her book.  She wanted her daughters to know being different doesn’t have to mean you’re weird.

“[My daughters] are perfect the way they are,” she told the Korea Times. How they look, who they are, their skin, their eyes — everything about them is perfect,” Kang said. “Nobody can tell them any different.

“It’s hard being a child. Children go through a lot of feelings, and it can be very intense. If I can make them feel better through what I’ve written, or make them laugh, it’s a great thing.”

According to the Huffington Post, just 2.1 percent of children’s books are about Asian Pacific Islander Americans.

You can read Kang’ story and her plans for a second book in the Korea Times.

You can read Joshi’s story and more about the future of Bharat Babies in the Aerogram.


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