Grace Lin may be a critically acclaimed children’s author, but one of her favorite things to do is to visit schools.
The Harford Courant reports she recently visited Bugbee Elementary School in Hartford, Connecticut to discuss her work.
“I get my ideas from life,” Lin said during her visit.
Lin’s books are known for focusing on Chinese culture as well as her life growing up.
The Year of the Dog is about a little girl that is the only Asian girl in her class. This is an experience that is personal for Lin and resonates with her.
“I was the only Asian girl in the whole school, except for my sisters. The characters are based on real people,” Lin said.
Lin grew up in upstate New York and dreamed of being an ice skater, according to the Davis Enterprise. Her fascination with the sport lead her to draw pictures of herself dancing on the ice and that inspired her to pursue a career illustrating and writing children’s books. Her novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was selected as a Newberry Honor Book in 2010.
While she talked about her creative process for her books, Lin also used her visit to educate the students on Chinese culture.
Lin also discussed the importance of not letting one’s self be limited by any restrictions society places on them. She shared her own personal story of when she auditioned to be Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at her elementary school.
“You can’t be Dorothy, Dorothy is not Chinese.” said the girl Lin was standing next in line to.
This eventually discouraged Lin from auditioning, but she has since learned from the experience.
“Authors write the characters the way that we see them. But characters only come to life through a reader’s imagination. The reader is the one with all the power. If the reader wants to change things, they can do it. As a reader, I could have imagined Dorothy as being Chinese and it would have been just fine.”
Lin says “[the students] can see the character in the book is just like them” even if the character may not physically look like them.
Children’s books such as Lin’s are important for young children, and especially children of color, since many children’s books have caucasian main characters which leaves little room for any characters of color. While the children may like the book, there is still a lack of children’s books that provide representation for children in minority groups.
Children’s books, such as Lin’s, are helping to combat this issue and promote the awareness of other cultures.
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