HomeFilipino AmericanAward-wining Filipina Am Author rejected her heritage. This is her response

Award-wining Filipina Am Author rejected her heritage. This is her response

Those Kids from Fawn Creek, the eighth novel from author, illustrator, and professor of children’s literature, Erin Entrada Kelly, debuts on March 8th wherever books are sold. The book has already created a splash, appearing on the March/April Indie List of titles most highly anticipated by booksellers around the country.

It’s no wonder readers and booksellers are excited about Entrada Kelly’s follow-up to 2020’s We Dream of Space, a Newbery Honor book, and 2017’s Newbery Medal-winning Hello, Universe.

In Those Kids from Fawn Creek, Entrada Kelly’s middle school-aged protagonists wrestle with the longing to fit in and to stand out—a feeling to which every teen and, let’s be real, every adult reader can relate. The novel is Entrada Kelly’s most personal narrative yet.

The book opens with a letter to readers in which Entrada Kelly shares her experience growing up as “other,” one of the few non-white, non-Black residents of her southern Louisiana town:

When kids asked, “What are you?” and I answered, “Half-Filipino,” they blinked at me like they wanted a better answer…I desperately wanted to be someone else. Someone better, more interesting, funnier, prettier.

“Welcome to Fawn Creek,” Entrada Kelly says at the close of the letter, inviting us into a fictional small town where the drama of identity and belonging plays out among a classroom of seventh-graders. The novel’s epigraph, a quote from author/illustrator Austin Kleon, makes clear that Entrada Kelly has bigger fish to fry.

Be nice. The world is a small town.

“I like to think that I’m a citizen of the world,” Entrada Kelly tells AsAmNews.

“We all have a shared humanity. We all have people we love. We all want to be happy and make the most of our time here. That’s why I love the Austin Kleon quote,” Entrada Kelly explains.

As her books illustrate, finding one’s place in this world is rarely easy. For Entrada Kelly, reckoning with her mixed-white and Filipino heritage has been a long process.

“In my eyes, being Filipino made me different from everyone else, and I didn’t want to be different,” she remembers.

Like some of her fictional characters, she says, ”I was teased and bullied. I wanted to have blue eyes and blonde hair and look like the princesses in Disney movies.”

Overcoming her internalized racism did not come quickly or easily. “My mother told stories of her childhood from time to time, but I didn’t want to listen to them,” Entrada Kelly admits.

Gradually, as she grew up, Entrada Kelly came to appreciate that her mother is the protagonist of her own, larger-than-life story.

“I saw her as a woman who left everything she knew behind for a purpose greater than herself. And I wondered: Was she scared to leave the Philippines? Did she miss her family? What did she think of America when she first arrived? What did she miss most about home?”

Being able to wonder from her mother’s perspective opened up a whole new world for Entrada Kelly. “I started asking her questions. I was suddenly hungry to learn all I could about my heritage,” she says.

Set in the middle grades, Entrada Kelly’s books seem to serve as just the mentors for her young readers that she herself had needed. “I wish I’d had the maturity and foresight to embrace [my filipinx heritage] as a kid, but when you’re a kid, you don’t always see the bigger picture. I didn’t embrace those parts of myself back then. Now I know better,” she says.

Indeed, one part of her identity was never in doubt. “I started writing when I was eight years old. I decided that I would be an author when I grew up, and I never stopped believing it. For me, writing is like breathing. It’s always been there,” Entrada Kelly says.

Writing also served as a surprising source of community for her early in her career.

“I didn’t grow up with a Fil-Am community, so when I published my first book, I was filled with anxiety,” Entrada Kelly says. “Would people accept me or would they see me as an ‘other’?” she had wondered.

It turned out that her fears were unfounded.

“I have received so much love and support. It’s truly overwhelming. It makes my heart swell. I now have the community I never had before,” she beams.

Reflecting on this love stymies this otherwise prolific writer. “I wish I had words to describe my immense gratitude for the support of Fil-Am writers and readers.”

Meet the Author!
Interact with the author on a live Zoom webinar on March 9th at 7pm ET when Entrada Kelly will be in conversation with fellow middle school grade author and Newbery-winner Meg Medina. The free event is hosted by Little Shop of Stories, an indie bookstore in Decatur, GA. Advance registration is required to receive the link to the event.

Live in Texas or Arizona? Love book festivals?
Entrada Kelly will be in person at the North Texas Teen Book Festival in Irving TX this weekend, March 5-6, and at the Tucson Festival of Books in Arizona March 12-13.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story, or making a contribution.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading