When I was six, I read a chapter book where there was a Korean American character. She was the closest thing I could relate to but at the same time, she was depicted as a squinty eyed girl who ate kimchi (much to the horror of her classmates) and her mom spoke broken English. Despite my discomfort with the character, I still liked her because that was the closest thing I had to seeing myself in a book.
I wish that children growing up now can see themselves in media that they consume— believe that they’re full of potential to be anything and everything they want. I hope that they’re able to be proud of their cultures and where they come from.
I started this blog in 2009 when I was bored. I read a lot and I thought I might as well share what I thought about books with the internet. At the time, I already had a bunch of advanced reader copies of books since I signed up for a YA focus group that a publisher was running and my friends were a little tired of my “DID YOU READ THIS BOOK” conversation starters (I may or may not still start conversations with friends like that…. oops?) It was a few years after 2009 when I decided focus a lot of my efforts on Asian American literature. Despite reading so many books, I barely saw myself in the stories I read.
My journey with Asian American literature is largely chronicled on this blog from the viral post that I did in 2014 where I essentially listed POC authors. It’s unfortunate that a simple list went viral but such was the state of publishing. It still is, to a certain extent. I used to go to Book Expo America when it was at the Javits Center in New York and one year, I was chatting up a publicist from one of the major publishing companies. I think I mentioned a well-known book by an Asian American that came out and I asked if there were any Asian American literature PR mailing lists. The confusion on her face was obvious. I could hear her thoughts, “But why?”
I grew up with other Asian Americans for a good portion of my life but it’s still hard when the only representation of myself and what I could be is through foreign media. It told my friends and me that we existed but our stories didn’t matter. I found Mochi Mag in 2012 when I googled Eva Chen. Mochi had one of the few profiles on her and at the time, she was the beauty editor at Teen Vogue, which I had just subscribed to. On Mochi, there were stories about Asian Americans women thriving beyond stereotypes and limitations. I joined staff soon after that.
I like reading stories that explore the human condition, bearing witness to the difficult moments. I also like light whimsical stories. The publishing industry has changed so much– there are Asian American literature PR lists and an increase in Asian American storytelling. But to the greater public and to the community at large, people don’t know. I’ve been a part of so many Twitter threads earlier this year where people were looking for Asian American literature and I read so many stories about parents being elated about finding Asian American literature for their kids because they never had it growing up.
There are so many good blogs and websites out there covering Asian American YA and adult fiction so I’ll leave that sector to them but I haven’t seen a centralized database for children’s books yet. I think about when I was six and wanted better representation. Children are malleable and they absorb what society tells them. I wish that children growing up now can see themselves in media that they consume— believe that they’re full of potential to be anything and everything they want. I hope that they’re able to be proud of their cultures and where they come from.
I’ve used the portfolio function of my website to host an Asian American Children’s Book Database featuring a variety of picture book and middle grade titles and I hope you’ll explore it. I’m focusing on recent children’s books within the last few years and upcoming releases because those are the metrics that publishers use to measure author success. Please pre-order books or buy books the week they come out to support authors, if you can. The database currently has nearly 50 books and if you want to suggest a book for the database, fill the form out here.
Please note that the database does contain affiliate links for Amazon and Bookshop.org links. Thank you for supporting this website and Asian American literature. I hope you find this database helpful!
Visit the Asian American Children’s Book Database