Press Release: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winners Selected

Friday, February 26, 2010
The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), has selected the winners of the 2009 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. The awards promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and are awarded based on literary and artistic merit.

Here are the winners in the picture book and youth literature categories:

The picture book winner is Cora Cooks Pancit, written by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore and illustrated by Kristi Valiant, published by Groundwood Books. The picture book honor was given to Tan to Tamarind, written by Malathi Michelle Iyengar and illustrated by Jamel Akib, published by Children’s Book Press.

The youth literature winner is Everything Asian, written by Sung J. Woo and published by Thomas Dunne Books. The youth literature honor was given to Tofu Quilt, written by Ching Yeung Russell and published by Lee & Low Books.

The winners and honor books were chosen from titles by or about Asian/Pacific Americans published in 2009.

The APALA was founded in 1980 by librarians of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestries committed to working together toward a common goal: to create an organization that would address the needs of Asian/Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian/Pacific American communities.

The winners will each receive an award plaque at the APALA Award Ceremony on Sunday, June 27 during the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Publishers interested in submitting books for the 2010 awards should contact Dora Ho, Jury Chair, at

More Good News

Thursday, February 25, 2010
* Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! written by Nanoy Rafael and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III (Adarna House, 2008) will be published in translation next year by the Swedish publishing house Trasten. Woot woot! Philippines in the heart, world on the mind!

Thanks to Chen of Trasten publishing house for this great news. =D

* I've guest blogged at Zoe Toft's Playing by the book. I sang the praises of three Asian fantasies for kids and teens and Zoe suggested songs and activities to go with the books! =D

Multiculturalism Rocks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Are you curious about why I started this blog? Children's and young adult fiction writer Nathalie Mvondo asked me about Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. The interview is posted at her amazing blog Multiculturalism Rocks!

Tastespotting in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Monday, February 22, 2010

My favorite food scene in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, written and illustrated by Grace Lin

Minli entered the open air pavilion. At the center, two stools and a small table of elaborately carved gingko wood waited for them. A large, finely woven bamboo basket as tall as Minli's waist stood next to the chairs. The king eagerly lifted off its lid and rich, warm aromas floated in the air, making Minli's stomach grumble.

The king took out the plates of delicate pink shrimp dumplings, savory noodles and pork, dragon's beard bean sprouts, emerald green chives, and a bowl of white jade tofu soup. A pot of tea and an assortment of cakes sat on the bottom layer of the basket, to finish off the dinner.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Monday, February 15, 2010

There is a barren mountain aptly called Fruitless Mountain, and by it lies the dark Jade River. In the shadow of the mountain is a poor village where everything is the dull color of mud. In this village live Ba and Ma and their quick-thinking daughter Minli. Ba, Ma, and Minli work hard in the fields every day, yet they only have plain rice to eat for their meals. Ma sighs with discontentment all the time. Minli looks at her weary father, her dissatisfied mother, and her desolate village and wishes she knew how she could change their fortune.

Ba has told Minli wonderful stories about the Never-Ending Mountain and the Old Man of the Moon who knows the answer to all important questions, for he alone holds and reads the Book of Fortune. Minli decides to find the Never-Ending Mountain and climb up to the moon so that she can ask the Old Man how she can change her family's fortune. And so begins Minli's journey. Along the way, she makes many new friends, including a dragon, a buffalo boy, and a king.

Minli's story is generously sprinkled with the stories told by Ba and by the animals and people she meets. These magical stories and Minli's own story were inspired by Chinese folktales and all are connected in surprising and delightful ways.

There isn't a lot of external action during the journey, but there is so much going on inside Minli. Readers will find the internal transformation she goes through in her quest for good fortune very satisfying. There is so much wisdom in this book. It is about kindness, generosity, and hospitality. It is about faith and the secret to happiness. It is about the truth in and the power of stories.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is not just an example of fine storytelling. It is also an example of fine bookmaking. It is an object of art. The book is filled with engaging, intricately-detailed spot and full-page illustrations in rich, jewel-like colors.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a quietly impressive book from a truly skilled author and illustrator.

[Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was a finalist in the middle grade science fiction and fantasy category of the 2009-2010 Cybils awards. I bought my own copy so that I could read it as a Cybils judge.]
Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm on the staff of Color Online, a blog that focuses on women writers of color for adults, teenagers, and children. Head on over there for my review of Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie and Ed Young!

Ash by Malinda Lo

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When Ash is around twelve years old, her mother dies and her father dies soon after. But not before marrying a woman with two daughters of her own. Even with a stepmother and two stepsisters, Ash is all alone, for her stepfamily treats her very unkindly and like a servant. And always, always Ash feels the loss of her mother.

Ash inherited her mother's love of fairy tales and she reads stories about how fairies can take people to see their deceased loved ones. Ash seeks out fairies because magic reminds her of her mother and she would like to ask the fairies to bring her mother back from the dead. She finds fairies and forms a very peculiar relationship with one named Sidhean. Sidhean is powerful and more handsome than any man Ash has ever seen. He desires Ash and claims her as his own. Though he and Ash are strange friends/companions for many years, they rarely spend time together. Sidhean claims that Ash is not yet ready to stay with him and his people. However, Ash yearns to leave her hard and lonely life for the magic and beauty of Sidhean and other fairies.

In her late teens, Ash meets the King's Huntress. Kaisa is strong and interesting and very important in the kingdom. She shares Ash's respect for magic and the old ways of the land. As Ash was once completely fascinated with Sidhean, she becomes fascinated with Kaisa. Ash and Kaisa slowly form a very warm friendship. As Ash realizes just how much she and Kaisa care for each other, she finds herself turning away from Sidhean and fairies and magic. She wants to be with Kaisa. But Sidhean has granted Ash two wishes; in return Ash had promised herself to him. Everyone knows that it is dangerous to break a promise made to a fairy.

Ash by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) is a truly beautiful and unique retelling of Cinderella. It reads very much like a fairy tale and it had me enchanted. Sometimes the descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the weather and the land were unnecessary and overwrought. And Ash and Kaisa's relationship was underdeveloped compared to Ash and Sidhean's relationship. (This is probably due to the fact that Ash and Sidhean knew each other for many years and so many more pages were dedicated to their relationship.) But I couldn't put this novel down. The character of Ash was so well drawn, so well written. She is flawed. She is likable. She grows. She is REAL. Readers will sympathize and empathize with Ash. I deeply cared about her and about what would happen to her, Sidhean, and Kaisa. I also loved how this novel is very much about choosing to be brave and really LIVE LIFE. Even though life can be acutely painful, at least it is REAL. True to fairy tale form, Ash can be considered a cautionary tale about running away from life to escape grief and hardship.

Sometimes fairy tale retellings feel old and tired. Ash feels fresh and the love triangle of Ash, Sidhean, and Kaisa haunts me. The spell of this novel still clings to me.

Why I Imagine the Characters of Ash as Asians

I had thought that I would imagine the characters of Ash as Caucasians because it is based on a fairy tale with very popular versions from Europe and the United States. To my surprise, delight, and relief, I imagined the characters as Asians. Yes, some of the characters are described as having physical features that are not Asian. For example, the fairies have striking blue eyes. But in my mind their blue eyes have smooth eyelids with no folds. Hey, they could be biracial. :o)

I did not think of the lush setting of Ash as somewhere in Europe or the United States. I thought of Japan, Taiwan, and China. There are several reasons why it was easy for me to imagine the characters and setting as Asian and I would like to enumerate them here.

1. I have Asia in my heart and mind.
2. The author Malinda Lo is Asian American. (She envisions Ash and Kaisa as Asians.)
3. I was influenced by this post where blogger Ah Yuan cast Ash as if it were to be made into a Japanese TV drama.
4. I watch a lot of Japanese anime. Japanese anime is full of characters with physical features that are not Asian: blond hair, blue eyes, curly hair, etc. But the language is always Japanese and the characterization, narrative techniques, and themes are always uniquely Japanese. I think of these characters as Japanese.
5. The subtle and painful love triangle of Ash, Sidhean, and Kaisa reminded me of the subtle and painful love triangles in excellent Asian anime and TV dramas.
6. There is tension between magic and philosophy/religion in Ash's land. The people are trying to embrace science, yet are reluctant to completely let go of their superstitions. This sounds a lot like Asia today. In Asia, there are still "negotiations" between tradition and modernity.

[My copy of Ash is an ARC I won from Presenting Lenore. Thank you, Lenore!]