The pleasures of eating and how food brings people together. This is a concept that is very strong in countries with a strong food culture: the French, the Italians, and of course, pretty much all Asian countries!
The themes in all these picture books and chapter books ring true. Ethnic food that bonds a family into our culture can also isolate them. Our Asian ethnic food is “weird” or “stinky.” In rejecting our food, we feel rejected or at least, on the periphery, longing for “American” food to be like everyone else.
But then that miracle happens, when our food is accepted, enjoyed and even requested. Our complicated relationship food, it turns out, is not so different from any other nationality obsessed with food. And the result is similar — food as pleasure. Family bonded around the dining room table. And meal after delicious meal to build memories around.
A wonderful paperback picture book about the joys of family and food, from Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park.
Bee-bim bop (“mix-mix rice”) is a traditional Korean dish. In bouncy rhyming text, a hungry child tells of helping her mother make bee-bim bop: shopping, preparing ingredients, setting the table, and sitting down to enjoy a favorite meal. The enthusiasm of the narrartor is conveyed in the whimsical illustrations, which bring details from the artist’s childhood in Korea to his depiction of a modern Korean-American family. The book includes Linda Sue’s own bee-bim bop recipe!
Jenny’s baby brother Henry is having his one-month birthday — his first-moon, as it’s called in Chinese. And even though Jenny’s sure he doesn’t deserve it — all Henry does is sleep, eat, and cry — there’s a big celebration planned for him. Together, Jenny and her grandma get everything ready, from dyeing eggs a lucky red to preparing pigs’ feet and ginger soup. And someday, when Henry’s old enough to appreciate all her hard work, Jenny will tell him how lucky he was to have her in charge.
The childlike charm of Lenore Look’s story is perfectly captured in Yumi Heo’s naïve illustrations, which give readers the impression that Jenny drew them herself.
Jo Jo Eats Dim Sumby James Kye
Jojo Eats Dim Sum is the first in a new and exciting series of children’s books with the aim of introducing children to the joys of various Asian cuisines. The star of the book is Jojo, a young girl with a sense of adventure and a daring appetite. In stark contrast is her baby brother, Ollie, who prefers to eat pea soup at every meal. The story encourages children to be more open to foods that are unfamiliar, thereby opening doors to other cultures. In Jojo Eats Dim Sum, Jojo eats her way through some of the most popular dim sum dishes, culminating in chicken feet, which are unfamiliar to most Westerners or unappetizing to those who have encountered them. But Jojo loves chicken feet, as she loves most dim sum dishes. Each story in the Jojo Eats series leverages a fun narrative to carry the young reader through the culinary journey, which is interspersed with lessons on how to pronounce foods in the local language. Jojo Eats Dim Sum is an irresistible book that children will want to read over and over again. Each beautiful book is in the shape and size of a menu, adding to the charm of Jojo’s culinary adventures.
No one wants Chinese food on the Fourth of July, I say. We’re in apple-pie America, and my parents are cooking chow mein! . . . They just don’t get it. Americans do not eat Chinese food on the Fourth of July. Right?
Shocked that her parents are cooking Chinese food to sell in the family store on this all-American holiday, a feisty Chinese-American girl tries to tell her mother and father how things really are. But as the parade passes by and fireworks light the sky, she learns a lesson of her own.
This award-winning author-illustrator team returns with a lighthearted look at the very American experience of mixed cultures.
Mmm, Yoko’s mom has packed her favorite for lunch today—sushi! But her classmates don’t think it looks quite so yummy. “Ick!” says one of the Franks. “It’s seaweed!” They’re not even impressed by her red bean ice cream dessert. Of course, Mrs. Jenkins has a plan that might solve Yoko’s problem. But will it work with the other children in class?
Now in paperback for the first time, this tender story from Rosemary Wells demonstrates the author’s uncanny understanding of the pleasures and pains of an ordinary school day.
One of my all time favorite books. Ever!
The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
It’s easy to appreciate a garden exploding with colorful flowers and fragrances, but what do you do with a patch of ugly vegetables? Author/illustrator Grace Lin recalls such a garden in this charming and eloquent story.
The neighbors’ gardens look so much prettier and so much more inviting to the young gardener than the garden of “black-purple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly stems, and a few little yellow flowers” that she and her mother grow. Nevertheless, mother assures her that “these are better than flowers.” Come harvest time, everyone agrees as those ugly Chinese vegetables become the tastiest, most aromatic soup they have ever known. As the neighborhood comes together to share flowers and ugly vegetable soup, the young gardener learns that regardless of appearances, everything has its own beauty and purpose.
The Ugly Vegetables springs forth with the bright and cheerful colors of blooming flowers and bumpy, ugly vegetables. Grace Lin’s colorful, playful illustrations pour forth with abundant treasures. Complete with a guide to the Chinese pronunciation of the vegetables and the recipe for ugly vegetable soup! Try it . . . you’ll love it, too!
Asian American Advanced Picture Book
Where Food Brings Everyone Together (after realizing that no one is going to freak out about the “weird” food.
When Yunmi’s class plans a picnic in Central Park, her Korean grandmother, Halmoni, agrees to chaperone. But Yunmi worries that the other children will make fun of Halmoni’s traditional Korean dress and unfamiliar food.
Kimchi and calamari. It sounds like a quirky food fusion of Korean and Italian cuisine, and it’s exactly how Joseph Calderaro feels about himself. Why wouldn’t an adopted Korean drummer—comic book junkie feel like a combo platter given:
(1) his face in the mirror
(2) his proud Italian family.
And now Joseph has to write an essay about his ancestors for social studies. All he knows is that his birth family shipped his diapered butt on a plane to the USA. End of story. But what he writes leads to a catastrophe messier than a table of shattered dishes—and self-discovery that Joseph never could have imagined.
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
It’s the papaya tree and fruit that remind HÀ most of what she’s lost since it’s not available in ber new home in Alabama. Sometimes food memories are like that. They link us to our past and remind us of what we’ve lost.
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I will be giving away 2 copies of picture book Bella’s Vietnam Adventure. To win, please leave a comment. You can earn additional chances to win by signing up for an email subscription, following on Networked Blogs, following me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Please just note what you did. Thank you! I will draw a winner on March 15th.
I’ve never been to Vietnam but it’s at the top of my list of places that I want to visit, particularly for the food which we eat at least once a week so it was a easy choice to armchair travel. I grew up 15 minutes from Little Saigon in The O.C. and I am a big fan of Vietnamese food. It’s my favorite Asian cuisine. My mom worked in a real estate office near Little Saigon years ago and she ate at almost all of the phô and seafood restaurants in the area and would bring us to her favorites. It’s only fitting that food be included. I’ve actually made this recipe for Lemongrass Beef served Vietnamese “Burrito” style AND had my kids’ play dates enjoy this recipe which surprised me as some of my kids’ friends are fussy eaters. I also selected a cookbook by Saveur contributor, Andrea Nguyen, who returned to her homeland to research this book.
For children’s literature, I picked two books, one picture and one chapter book, that really seem evoke the culture and spirit of Vietnam. Both have a Zen quality to their story: spare, eloquent, and powerful. And both stories recall the terrible war but also the ability of the Vietnamese to transcend and make peace with it. For those who might want a intricate project, I have included a link to creating (and then possibly racing) a Dragon Boat. It’s a pretty labor intense project, so it’s not for everyone.
Finally, I searched for something emblematic of Vietnam and found lacquered paintings that are unique as well as beautiful.
I hope you enjoy our trip to Vietnam and that it inspires you to visit or revisit Vietnam soon!
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland. This gorgeous picture book is a spare and beautifully written book that touches on the most recent history of Vietnam. In this story, a young girl watches the emperor cry as his kingdom falls. She takes a lotus seed from the Imperial Garden and guards it throughout her harrowing journey from war-torn Vietnam to the United States. When her grandson plants the seed, she is inconsolable when she cannot locate her seed. Spring comes and the lotus blooms. The Grandmother carefully saves the seeds from the flower to give her to children, keeping one for herself. The lotus is an enduring symbol of Buddhism: rising from the mud comes a beautiful flower. [picture book, ages 6-12]
Bella’s Vietnam Adventure by Stacey Zolt Hara, illustrated by Steve Pileggi
I met author Stacey Zolt Hara on Twitter. She shares her experiences living as an U.S. expat in Singapore though her daughter Bella’s eyes. In this charming picture book, they all travel to Vietnam as tourists where they experience the intimidating traffic, Hoan Kiem Lake, shopping at street fairs, and the beach. This is a must for anyone thinking of taking their young kids to Vietnam! [picture book, ages 4-10]
The Buddha’s Diamonds by Carolyn Marsden. This chapter book also has a spare yet richly nuanced story conveying life in rural Vietnam. 1o-year-old Tinh works with his father to catch fish for their livelihood. When a storm damages their boat because he fails to secure it, Tihn must go on a dangerous journey through old land mines from the war still buried in the countryside to get the engine repaired. [chapter book, ages 9-12]
Vietnamese Cookbook from Saveur Editor, Andrea Nguyen
One of my favorite magazines of all time is Saveur Magazine. It’s a food magazine that goes deep into the culture of different countries, typically exploring home cooking. I’ve enjoyed reading Andrea’s articles and now she’s has a cookbook published on her native cuisine.
Flank steak, cut against the grain into thin ribbons, about a pound
Marinade for a few hours or overnight in:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced inner stalks of lemongrass
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use Kikkoman’s)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar (or juice from one lime)
1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
Stir to mix and serve in small bowls.
1/2 head Bibb lettuce, washed and leaves separated
2 small carrots, julienned in long strips
1 English cucumber, julienned in long strips
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 package rice paper wrappers, 6 inches in diameter
Lightly coat a cast iron grill pan with oil and heat over medium high heat. Sear steak and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until done to the degree you prefer. Discard marinade, and arrange steak with lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, herbs on a platter. Bring out a large bowl of water, the rice paper wrappers and the dipping sauce. Dip the rice paper wrappers in water then lay out on a plate. Let each diner add on the veggies they like best, then wrap like a burrito, dip into the sauce and eat. The appeal of this meal for children is that they can make their own, it’s hands on, and it’s delicious!
Craft: Vietnamese Dragon Boat
In Vietnam, boat racing is a national sport and has become a traditional way to celebrate Tet Nguyen Dan, the Vietnamese New Year. This boat takes about 6 hours but is broken out into about 2 hours of assembly time and 4 hours of drying time so it’s doable albeit ambitious. Here’s the link.
Vietnamese Lacquer Art Paintings
Vietnamese Lacquer Ware is based on the natural vegetable lacquer, a product made from the lacquer tree which is found in several Asian countries. But the resins in the lacquer trees in the province of VinhPhu, Vietnam, produce the best lacquer ware products. They are the most beautiful and durable lacquer ware items in the world today.
The origins of making lacquer ware dates back six to seven thousand years in China. These early examples were very basic and lack the number of process done today. Modern lacquer ware styles and process came about during the first century AD. Somewhere around the 8th century this form of art came to the North of Vietnam. That explains why today, Vietnam is well-known in this field. When speaking today about fine lacquer products, items from Vietnam represent the finest examples of the art today.
Lacquer painting can also be combined with gold and/or silver leaf for stunning results!
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The Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature honor and recognize individual works about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage with exceptional literary and artistic merit. The awards are given in five categories, including Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Children’s Literature, Young Adult Literature and Picture Book.
Amy Waldman imagines the fallout when a Muslim American of Indian descent, Mohammad “Mo” Khan, wins an anonymous competition for a 9/11 memorial just two years after the World Trade Center tragedy. Waldman treats her large ensemble of characters with understanding and sympathy. Through the experiences of two very different Asian American, Muslim characters—disenfranchised and privileged, immigrant and second generation—“The Submission” interrogates the definition of America.
Leche by R. Zamora Linmark was selected as the Honor Book in the Adult Fiction category.
The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking – A Memoir by Ying-Ying Chang won the Adult Non-Fiction award.
Ying-Ying Chang had the unfortunate task of writing her own daughter’s memoir after her tragic death. This moving memoir takes the reader into the world of Iris Chang, journalist and author of “The Rape of Nanking” (Basic Books, 1997), following her childhood imagination, creative writing, triumphs, motherhood, depression and suicide. Ying-Ying Chang did what she thought was important; to share the story of Iris’s illustrious as well as obscure life, which makes for a touching and poignant tribute to her daughter.
The Bangladeshi Diaspora in the United States after 9/11: From Obscurity to High Visibility by Shafiqur Rahman was selected as the Honor Book in the Adult Non-Fiction category.
Twelve-year old Lucy is going to have the best year yet: she will be a sixth grader, be the captain of her basketball team and have a bedroom all to herself. Her plans change, however, when her Yi Po (great aunt) visits from China and Lucy has to share her room with Yi Po for a few months. This is a hilarious first children’s book for Shang, with a serious undertone as she explores the complexities of racial identity in a Chinese-American family with traditional parents and American-born children.
Vanished by Sheela Chari was selected as the Honor Book in the Children’s Literature Category.
Kanako Goldberg wants nothing more than to spend the summer with her friends in New York, but the loss of her classmate Ruth changes everything, and her parents believe that the best thing for Kanako to do is to be shipped off to her grandparents’ mikan orange farm in Shizuoka, Japan. Written entirely in verse, Kana’s intimate narrative captures the reader as she not only grapples with the death of a friend, but also navigating a place that is not entirely familiar, even if it is a part of her.
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang was selected as the Honor Book in the Young Adult Literature category.
The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China by Ed Young won the Picture Book award.
Fragments of artist Ed Young’s childhood are gathered in this memoir, displayed in a variety of hand drawn images, paintings and collages of cut paper and personal photographs. While addressing the issues of World War II and their effect on China, much emphasis is placed on warm vignettes of small, personal moments that all readers can relate to.
Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min was selected as the Honor Book in the Picture Book category.
Special thanks to the APALA Literature Awards Committee, including Jury Chair Dora Ho; Adult Fiction Chair Michelle Baildon and members Suhasini L. Kumar, Karen Fernandez, Eileen Bosch and Jerry Dear; Adult Non-Fiction Chair Buenaventura “Ven” Basco and members Eugenia Beh, Samanthi Hewakapuge, Monica Shin and Yumi Ohira; Children’s Literature Chair Ngoc-Yen Tran and members Shu-Hsien Chen, Tamiye T. Meehan, Laksamee Putnam, Katrina Nye and Maria Pontillas; Young Adult Literature Chair Lana Adlawan and members Jade Alburo, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Karla Lucht and Candice A. Mack and Picture Book Chair Susan Hoang and members Jeannie Chen, Kate Vo-Thi Beard, Amber Painter and Danielle Date Kaprelian.
An affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (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. For more information about APALA, visit www.apalaweb.org.
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I wanted to add my congratulations to these authors, illustrators, and publishers. This post is from PaperTigers.org, a wonderful website and blog for librarians, teachers, publishers, and all those interested in young readersÁ books from and about the Pacific Rim and South Asia. These are the winners from the APALA (Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association).
If you’re like most Asian Americans, you grew up in an immigrant family. Your mother and father struggled to make ends meet. They raised you. They relied on you for English. Maybe you were a reader, but it never occurred to you that you should be able to recognize them and yourself in the movies you watch and the novels you read. Maybe you thought you could become a writer and tell that story. You thought that studying in school and working hard on your manuscript were enough to get you published, but you didn’t realize that writing is the easy part of being a writer.
You could turn to local arts groups for support, but these organizations get their financial support and programmatic priorities from foundations, grantmakers and large donors. Did you know that three-fourths of the top 100 foundations have zero Asian Americans board members? In fact, none of the top 100 foundations employ an Asian American executive director, president, or CEO.
Did you know that less than half of 1% of philanthropic dollars goes to Asian Americans—even though Asian Americans comprise one in 20 Americans and more than one in ten New Yorkers? Those that do fund Asian American groups almost entirely focus on direct service organizations. Almost no philanthropic dollars are invested in the infrastructure of Asian American arts.
Our culture is losing the majority of the stories and ideas of the fastest growing ethnic group in America—Asian Americans. Here’s where you come in. Where foundations and publishing houses have failed, you can step in and make an investment that says that, like us, you believe that the Asian American story deserves to be told. Please donate.
Why Burma? A trio of serendipitous events collided:
A Mom Friend from Burma hosted a Mystery Dinner School Fundraiser and 8 parents from my school went to her dinner.
I had brunch with one set of parents who raved about her dinner, a Burmese Noodle Dish — recipe below –, and reminisced about his own travels to Burma. He was there during the student protests (see history bullet points below) which was a crazy and somewhat unsafe time to be a tourist in Burma.
I was at a U2 concert a year ago, and Bono dedicated a song to Aung San Suu Kyi, who was I barely aware of.
And that is all it took. Plus me realizing that I knew nothing about Burma, to the point that I didn’t fully realize that Myanmar is Burma. Such is Teach Me Tuesday … I teach myself (that’s the Teach Me part) and then I share what I hope is also interesting to others. I’m not sure if I would feel safe traveling to Burma now with my family so this is my way to arm chair travel — through children’s literature, food, photo essays, and the briefest pit stop into the history. I hope you enjoy the trip. And please share in the comments section any experiences you have had in Burma. And if you have more children’s books suggestions, please share!
The challenge for this Burma post was finding picture books and middle grade or YA books on Burma. My Burmese Mom Friend had asked her children’s librarian friend to help with this search but all of us came up with zippo. So I started to dig deeper on the web and came up with a really interesting not-for-profit project created by refugee children from Burma and benefiting the Burma Cyclone Relief Fund called My Beautiful Myanmar. The drawings and stories are created entirely by refugee children about why they left Myanmar, what their lives are like in Malaysia, and what their hopes and dreams are. 100% of proceeds go to the Burma Cyclone Relief Fund. Here’s an interesting way to teach your children about a different country and do good at the same time!
Young Adult Book
The next book I found was by Mitali Perkins, an author from my town, who is lovely and talented. This YA book gets rave reviews:
“A graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.” Publishers WeeklyStarred Review
“With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel.” School Library Journal Starred Review
“Mitali Perkins has written something here that is so fine, so rare, so beautiful, that I am loath to move on to another book too quickly because I want to think and remember and savor this exquisite story.” —Bookmoot
And here’s the plot summary:
“Chiko isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family’s home and bamboo fields.Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion as each boy is changed by unlikely friendships formed under extreme circumstances.This coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Narrated by two fifteen-year-old boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma, Bamboo People explores the nature of violence, power, and prejudice.” From Mitali Perkin’s Website.
I found this event on Paper Tigers Blog (I subscribe): Global Read of Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
You are invited to join us for a discussion of the young adult novel, Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins — a compelling coming-of-age story about child soldiers in modern Burma. The online discussion forum will begin tomorrow – Wednesday, January 12th. Then join the author for a live chat on January 19th.
Online discussion forum: January 12th-19th, 2011 Live chat session with the author: Wednesday, January 19, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST
Register online here (registration is free but participants are responsible for obtaining their own copy of the book). All are welcome – teachers, students, parents, and anyone interested in global issues!
Young Adult Photo Essay Book
Finally, “a picture speaks a thousand words” in this photo essay book built around a single letter of correspondence to a young soldier (and would be interesting paired with Bamboo People for middle grade or older):
Burma: Something Went Wrong by Chan Chao [non fiction photo essays for Young Adult]
The book is built around a single letter of correspondence sent to Chao in 1997 by Aye Saung. The brief letter relays news of a friend’s death, a fighter’s struggle, and a movement’s dreams and setbacks. While the letter and accompanying portraits are specific to Burma in 1997, the themes found in Letter from P.L.F. are universal, making this an artists’ book of the highest order.Letter from two of the guerilla fighters: “Hallo! Dear Naing Naing, I am so sorry for not writing you earlier. Do you remember Myint Zaw, General Secretary of D.A.B.? He died in March by sickness. All the place you had been with us in Hteekabalae are fallen into enemy’s hand. I was in the area when the enemy approached. I sent my men to the front and have to leave quickly. I was told by my men to leave they don’t let me know because they didn’t want me to worry.”
This book shows us a region in constant turmoil, whose people have been at war with themselves for generations, where violence and death, nevertheless, provide a backdrop to what is still a golden land.
Photos of Burma — Shangri La Lost?
I have heard people speak of the beauty of Burma and when I found these photos I was really quite stunned by their beauty.
Briefest History of Burma: Colonization and Coups Never End Well…
Burma has one of the most eclectic cultural mixes in all of Asia. This began with the migration of three groups, the Mons from present-day Cambodia, the Mongol Burmans from the Himalayas and the Thais from northern Thailand. The territory that is now Burma, was first united under King Anawratha in present day Bagan. However, this unification was short lived and it took 250 years before Burma was reunified in the mid-16th Century under a series of Taungoo kings. Since then, and even now, Burma’s history has been troubled and violent.
Border clashes with British troops, economic potential and empire expansion lead the British to invade Burma. It took three invasions to control the whole of Burma in 1824, 1852 and 1883. Burma, under the British rule was annexed to India.
In World War II, the Burmese National Army, which fought along side the Japanese to drive the British out of Burma. However, before the end of the war, the Burmese National Army changed sides and fought with the allied forces to expel the Japanese.
Following World War II, the British agreed to Burma’s independence and elections were held in April 1947. However, most members of the new government were assasinated three months later.
Despite this on January 4, 1948, Burma gained independence and became the Union of Burma. In 1948 the Burman’s controlled the area surrounding Rangoon, the rest was controlled by the different ethnic groups. Many ethnic groups and religious minorities revolted and formed armed resistance groups.
In 1958 Prime Minister U Nu invited the army to help restore the government’s political power, which for 18 months, had limitless power.
In 1962 Burma’s troubled democracy was ousted in a military coup by General Ne Win. During the coup the constitution was abolished and a military government took over the running of the country. Consequently, the government’s policies also changed, they became xenophobic and put the country on the path to socialism.
Very quickly the country changed. In 1939 under the British Burma was the world’s largest rice exporter and it had a successful export business in teak and gems. Burma was one of the richest countries in South East Asia. After 1962, it became the poorest. All business were nationalized, all privately owned stores were closed and replaced with ones that were controlled by the state. No one received compensation for these seizures. Many people lost their jobs. A black market emerged and it was the only way to find essential items.
Also due to the xenophobic nature of the military leaders, people who were not Burmese were encouraged to leave the country. A lot of Indian and Chinese who were entrepreneurs were expelled from Burma.
After student protests in 1988, there was another military coup and Ne Win was replaced by General Saw Maung and his State Law and Restoration Council (SLORC). Maung declared Burma to be in a state of emergency which resulted in the military-law. Maung also suspended the constitution and changed the name of the country to the Union of Myanmar, because the Union of Burma, as it had previously been known, was an outdated colonial term.
However, he also agreed to hold free elections in 1989. A group quickly formed a coalition party in opposition to the military run dictatorship, called the National League of Democracy (NLD). Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of independence crusader Aung San, emerged as the leader of the NLD. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the NLD were put under house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in July 1995. In 1991 she was received the Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to be under house arrest.
At the end of October 2004, there was another coup in Burma, with General Khin Nyunt being allowed to resign for “health reasons” while being under house arrest. He was allegedly ousted for being too inclined for democratic reformed, and his successor, General Soa Win, is a military hardliner.
Recipes: Ohno Khaw Swe (Burmese Noodles with Coconut Sauce)
& Burmese Crunchy Cucumber Salad
If that was too dreary for you, let us leave on an upbeat note. Here’s that Burmese Noodle Dish that everyone raved about. The Mom Friend who made it says that it’s a favorite family meal for them because everyone can customize their own which is especially great for children!
Ohno Khaw Swe (Burmese Noodles with Coconut Sauce) by Jenny Tun-Aung
Chicken (breast, thighs, skin removed)
Coconut milk can
Turmeric and Paprika
Onions (cut into big chunks or use whole if small. Pearl onions will do also).
Can of Cream of Chicken Soup (optional)
*Noodles (your choice – small flat rice noodles or linguini)
Condiments to serve on the side:
Lemons or limes, sliced
Crushed red pepper
Crispies (like crispy chow mein noodles)
Hard boiled eggs
Sliced green onions
Cut up chicken to about one-inch cubes or desired size and marinade with Turmeric and Paprika, some fish sauce, garlic powder or diced garlic. Heat the ready-made chicken broth, or make chicken stock. In a cup, add gram flour with some water to mix well and add to soup stock, stirring occasionally. Add chunks of onions (makes soup thicker and sweeter), let onions cook/soften. Then add the coconut milk and keep slowly simmering to cook all the ingredients and thicken a bit. Heat oil in another pan while the soup is simmering. In small cup, mix turmeric, paprika and a tiny amount of either water or the soup to form a bit of paste. Put this into the heated oil and immediately add the marinated chicken and cook until meat is done. Chicken should have a nice color and flavor from spices. Add the cooked chicken into the simmering stock and coconut milk pot. Continue simmering and keep stirring occasionally on low heat. Cream of Chicken can be added if you want to make the sauce a little thicker. Cook noodles. Put noodles in bowls, add sauce, add the sides (where people add their choices of condiments to their own taste – I like little bit of sauce, lots of sour and spicy! Others like it a more like soup with more sauce. Whatever you like!).You can cook it ahead of time and keep simmered until ready or heat it up when ready to serve.
ENJOY! HAVE SECONDS. FREEZE THE EXTRA SAUCE.
Burmese Crunchy Cucumber Salad (by Tun Aung)
Cucumbers (skin on, halved lengthwise and sliced about ¼ inch thick or so). Estimate about 1-2cucumber a person (it will really shrink!)
Sesame seeds if desired
Slivered garlic (if desired)
Optional: Crispy fried sliced onions
Marinate the sliced cucumbers with sea salt (be generous, some of the salt will drain out with the liquid in next step). Put in colander and press down with a heavy weight for at least half a day or overnight. The salt will soak in and drain the water from cucumber. Drain (squeeze out) excess liquid from cucumber. You can simply squish with your hands over the sink or put into a tea towel or cheesecloth and squeeze. Mix with the above rest of the ingredients. Top with sesame and/or crispy fried onions and add to taste.The good thing about this recipe is that you can make most of it ahead of time.
Bon Appetit!If you are interested in examining any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
Children’s illustrator and author Grace Lin luckily was seemingly raised by enlightened first generation Taiwanese-American parents rather than that sad story of Tiger Mom.
At least, that is what I think after reading her Pacy series, now with its latest installment as it’s a semi-autobiographical series.
At a young age, Grace (and Pacy) knew that she wanted to write and illustrate children’s books (The Year of the Dog). She went on to polish her social skills after her best friend — the only other Asian American girl in her class — moved away. She spent the year making new friends (The Year of the Rat).
In Dumplings Days, her latest book in this series, Pacy and her family spend their summer visiting the relatives in Taiwan. Another factoid emerges: Grace was a good student in general but math was not her best subject. AND … her parents didn’t totally flip out. Is this fact or fiction? I suspect her parents, in fact, did not flip out.
In real life, perhaps Grace wasn’t the top student in math. And so what if she’s not the top student in math at school?! She’s a shining example that this is not the end of the world! Instead, she focused on her true passion, writing and illustrating children’s books that have a pulse on Asian American culture.
The result of her efforts? Many prestigious awards. She won the Newbury Honor forWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon. (read it, it’s fabulous. I have never met anyone who didn’t rave about it!) She also won the Geisel Award for her wonderful easy reader Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. (My son and I love this book so much! It always makes us laugh!)
Still, she went to arguably the best art school in the country after high school, Rhode Island School of Design. In her early career, she illustrated picture books more than writing books and worked closely with the real life version of Melanie who landed a job in publishing.
There are many reasons why I think she’s a great role model for Asian Americans, but her prestigious awards aside, I think it’s because of her personality. I hear repeatedly — we both live near Boston — what a nice person she is.
An author’s personality permeates all her books and Grace Lin is clearly a person who brings people together as the glue that helps builds a community. You can see this in her books from The Ugly Vegetables to Where The Mountain Meets the Moon.
The accolades are coming in now after decades of her hard work at her dual craft. But I have a feeling that her family was there behind her supporting her throughout this journey. Her parents have done a commendable job in letting her develop her passions, dreams, and her own identity. May we all do the same for our children!
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What nationality do you think Lisa See is? Would you be shocked if I said she’s Asian American?
I went to Lisa See’s book signing last week with two work friends, Nat and Annie, both Asian. Confession: none of us had read her books but we’ve all heard of them and even were planning to read them someday. We were a tad late so we had to sit in the aisle on stools because the room was chock full of Empty-Nester aged women, some who seemed to have traveled a great distance to see Lisa See. An introduction was made and Lisa See stepped out. We all did a double-take … WTF? Lisa See is not what we expected to see. Described as an Asian American author, she didn’t look Asian at all. Furiously typing into our iPhones, we Googled her nationality. Yes, she is indeed 1/8 Asian (and we calculated: so that means a great-grand parent is Asian), and then, over our initial shock, we settled down to listen to her speak.
She’s fascinating and lovely. And in fact, more Asian than I am though I am 50% Chinese and 50% Chinese (and married to a Korean). She grew up in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. That alone makes her more Chinese than I am. I grew up driving one hour once a month to eat and shop there. (I wonder if we ate at the same restaurants??) She spent 5 years learning and speaking Mandarin. I spent one tortured year studying Chinese from a group of cold calling Tiger Moms and remember nothing.
OK, we’re the same. Lisa claims to retain nothing as well. I don’t believe her. She does speak her family’s dialect which I didn’t catch. I don’t. In fact, I don’t know what dialect my father’s town speaks. She knows an amazing amount of Chinese history. I studied Japanese history in college because it was a shorter period of time.
She may not look Asian but she’s definitely more Asian than I am!
My friend Nat found more fascinating information about Lisa See’s ethnic heritage in this interview: Stuck in the Middle (Time Magazine) by Lisa See
In 1871 my great-grandfather Fong See, an illiterate peasant, left his village in southern China for Sacramento, California, in search of his father, who had disappeared during the building of the transcontinental railroad. At about the same time, Letticie Pruett’s family crossed America in a covered wagon and homesteaded in Oregon. By the late 1890s, after years of manual labor, Fong See owned the Curiosity Bizarre, which manufactured underwear for brothels. Letticie had run away from home and ended up in Sacramento. When no one would hire a single, uneducated woman, she drifted into Chinatown and the Curiosity Bizarre, where she begged Fong See for a job. He hired her, one thing led to another, and they decided to get married.
It was against the law in California and many other states for Chinese and Caucasians to marry. It was also against the law for Chinese to own property in California, and unlawful at the federal level for Chinese to become naturalized citizens. These laws had grown out of the so-called “Driving Out,” when Chinese had literally been driven from Western towns�when they weren’t hung, shot, burned or stabbed by members of the white community, who had no fear of retribution because Chinese could not testify in court against Caucasians. What started as informal harassment was formalized with the Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred the immigration of Chinese laborers and led to even more institutionalized racism.
But with a contract marriage drawn up by a lawyer, my great-grandparents set out to achieve the American Dream. Fong See and Letticie raised five mixed-race children and ran five antique stores in southern California. Fong See became the patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. He was the first Chinese in the U.S. to own an automobile and was one of the few Chinese to do business with the white community by selling props to the nascent film industry and antiques to customers like Frank Lloyd Wright. Despite these successes, Fong See’s four sons — all American-born citizens — had to go to Mexico to marry their Caucasian fiances.
Drop down another two generations. I am only one-eighth Chinese, with red hair and freckles. People often ask me where I fit in and how I define myself. My answer has to do with where I grew up and what I saw around me. Fong See had four wives, as Chinese traditional codes dictate for men with great wealth and prowess, so the Chinese side of my family in Los Angeles numbers close to 400, with only a handful that look like me. It’s been 130 years since my great-great-grandfather left China, and we’ve become educated, changed our way of dress and lost our Cantonese. But there’s a deep core that connects to our peasant ancestors.
Many small rituals in my daily life mirror what I experienced as a child. I tell my sons to put only what they’re going to eat on their plates, and I still pick at their discarded chicken bones. When they want comfort food, I cook them rice. (Shortly after going to college, my older son called to announce happily that the girls next door had a rice cooker.) When my younger son boasted that he’d told his chemistry teacher to stop checking her e-mail during class, I made him go back the next day with a gift of a perfect orange and an apology.
I do look different, and nothing will ever change that or people’s reactions. At my baby shower, some friends mistook my father, a professor, for a Chinese waiter. I’ve had Chinese Americans and Chinese-in-China talk about me as though I weren’t there: “I had a cousin from the south who looked like her, but her hair is disgusting.” On book tours, Caucasians will often ask point-blank, “Why would you choose to be Chinese when you have all the privileges of being white?” Given my family and the era in which I grew up, I don’t know that I had a choice.
The last of America’s miscegenation laws were overturned in 1965. Intermarriage is common, and if you walk into a classroom today, it’s impossible to tell a child’s exact race, or what race or ethnicity he or she may identify with. You certainly can’t with my own sons, who are only one-sixteenth Chinese and otherwise Irish, English, Scottish, Spanish, Russian, German, Austrian and Polish. I tell them it’s up to them to choose their own identities just so long as they marry nice Chinese girls. They think I’m kidding. I’m not, really. Who, I wonder, is going to cook them their rice?
The ambiguity in which she grew up — Asian American but looking Caucasian — gives her a unique perspective reflected in her writing:
“At first glance, Lisa See would not seem to be a likely candidate for literary voice of Chinese-American women. With her flaming red hair and freckled complexion, she hardly adheres to any stereotypical conceptions of what an Asian-American woman should look like, however, her familial background has given her roots in Chinese culture that have fueled her eloquent, elegant, and exciting body of work.
See grew up in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. Although she is only 1/8 Chinese, her upbringing provided her with a powerful connection to that fraction of herself. “I really grew up in this very traditional, old Chinese family,” she revealed in an interview with Barnes & Noble.com. “It was very traditional, but also quite magical in a lot of ways, because I really was in a very different culture then how I looked.”
See’s Chinese background was not the only aspect of her family that affected the course her life has taken. She also comes from a long line of writers and novelists. Her somewhat morose relatives initially led her to believe that writing must be the result of suffering and pain, which turned her off from literary pursuits at first. Ironically, despite her strong family roots, See only decided to try her hand at writing as a means of embarking on a lifestyle without roots. “I knew three things,” See said, “I never wanted to get married, I never wanted to have children, and I only wanted to live out of a suitcase. How am I gonna do it? And I was really thinking about it, and then one morning, I woke up, and it was truly like a light bulb went off — ‘Oh, I could be a writer!’ Many, many years later, here I am, married, I have children, [and] I am a writer.” Barnes and Nobles
Lisa See wasn’t at her book signing to talk about her ethnicity though she did touch upon it. In fact, she had a more interesting story to tell. It seems her oldest son upon graduating from Stanford, no less, was having a meltdown during a family vacation because he felt that his life had peaked. The more she comforted her son, the more depressed she became. When did she have her “moment?” Her family concurred, “Nope, you never had one.” This is despite having published four critically acclaimed novels and birthed AND raised two children!
Her epiphany was that, indeed, she did NOT have her moment and was going to dig deep for her next book. Her friends, agents, publishers, and family all agreed: “No one is going to want to read your new book about a friendship between two women set in China.” But she did not care and forged forward, going to dark and sad places that she had not had the courage to explore before.
The end result of this personal internal journey is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, now out as a movie.
Have you seen the movie? What do you think? Did you read the book? She says the movie is very different than the book with a new modern story of the descendents of Snow Flower and Peony overlaid and woven through the story in her book. A kind of Julie and Julia twist, I suppose.
Her latest book is Dreams of Joy and the reviews are raves:
“One of those hard-to-put down-until-four in-the-morning books . . . With each new novel, Lisa See gets better and better.”—Los Angeles Times
“Once again, See’s research feels impeccable, and she has created an authentic, visually arresting world.”—The Washington Post
“A stunningly researched epic about revolutionary-era China.”—Los Angeles
“See is a gifted historical novelist. She illuminates a turning point in Chinese history when people still remembered the inequities of the feudal caste system, and in some cases embodied them. . . . See is unflinching in her willingness to describe it all.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“See’s fans will be glad to read more about Pearl, May and Joy, and See’s recurring themes of unbreakable family bonds and strong-willed women.”—The Oregonian
p.s. I didn’t realize that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan‘s producers are none other than Asian Trophy Wives Wendi Murdoch and Florance Sloan. I just read a great interview in Harper’s Bazaar here. And by “Asian Trophy Wives,” I mean that in the most flattering way: beautiful, smart and accomplished Asian women seem to be sought after by media moguls these days. I have a post on that here. Wendi Murdoch is mentioned in that article on Asian Trophy Wives though if you read the Harper’s article, she comes across as smart, accomplished and very, very together.
p.p.s Yes, this is the same Wendi Murdoch with the fast reflexes who deflected the shaving cream pie that was aimed for her husband, Rupert Murdoch. She may have clocked the assailant in the process, but, hey, he deserved it! Here’s a slow motion video of her.
Book Suggestions from Readers Along the Lines of Lisa See
Thank you to I Wu from her book suggestions.
Hi Mia-loved JadeLuckClub post on Lisa See! Suggest books:
1. Chinese novel Clear Sky + Serenity about local woman’s extraordinary journey pre-/post-Japan attack on China through Hong Kong, Taiwan to US, touching war, history, women in STEM, career/family balance, child/eldercare, immigration, multicultural themes.
2. How to Break the Glass Ceiling Without a Hammer: Career Strategies for Women Edited by Linda Ellis Eastman
To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
I posted this list on my parenting blog, PragmaticMom, and it was so popular with some great additional suggestions that I wanted to share it here as well. If you know of any books that you or your children have enjoyed, please leave me a comment and I’ll keep adding. I know I am heavy on just a few authors for this list, so it would be great to expand it. It’s just that my library didn’t have all the books I was seeking that day and I’m too lazy to reserve.
p.s. Thank you to reader Navjot for giving these links to other great list of Southeast Asian KidLit and one for Southeast Asian YA (Young Adult).
Vanished by Sheela Chari
This book came highly recommended on a number of fronts including kidlit book bloggers and authors (see comments below). I will track it down so I can review it pronto! Author Uma Krishnaswami has a interview with author Sheela Chari here.
My going-int0-6th grade tried to read this book but didn’t like it. I said, well it’s like an Indian American Beacon Street Girls. She countered that Beacon Street Girls is better. Maybe that is splitting hairs. It’s not that either series is bad per se, it’s just that neither are or ever will be up for prestigious children’s lit awards. BUT, there is place for everything and this series is great for East Asian girls who want to see themselves (2nd generation) in the books that they read for fun. We read Beacon Street Girls for the same reason … one character was the actual literacy specialist at our elementary school and we recognize many of the places in the book since it’s just one town over.
Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially Bollywood movies. But when her mother tells her some big news, it does not at all jive with the script of her life she has in mind. Her family is moving to India…and, not even to Bombay, which is the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly. No, Dini is moving to a teeny, tiny village she can’t even find on a map. Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain and it only looks like a word that’s hard to pronounce. But to that open-minded person who sounds the name out, one letter at a time, it falls quite handily into place: S-w-a-p-n-a-g-i-r-i. An honest sort of name, with no surprise letters waiting to leap out and ambush the unwary. That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises in Swapnagiri like mischievous monkeys and a girl who chirps like a bird—and the biggest surprise of all: Dolly.
So now, Dini is hard at work on a new script, the script in which she gets to meet the amazing Dolly. But, life is often more unpredictable than the movies and when Dini starts plotting her story things get a little out of control.
This is a joyful, lively Bollywood inspired story is full of colorful details, delicious confections and the wondrous, magical powers of coincidence. Uma Krisnaswami will have you smiling from ear to ear. [chapter book, ages 9-12]
Hatha yoga has been practiced in India for centuries and is now a popular activity for children to help them focus and calm their minds. My middle daughter who is energetic to say the least like Vinyasa Yoga and says that it makes her feel calm. This is a good thing! If your child enjoys yoga, he or she will like this story about how Meena, who thinks she’s clumsy, uses the power of yoga to help her during her school play when she’s a wiggly tree. The yoga poses in the back include tree, frog, lotus, cat and cobra. If your child wants to explore yoga, the card deck Yoga Pretzels is a fun way for kids to explore different yoga poses! This would also make a nice gift paired together. [picture book, ages 6-9)
The theme of this story–a child impatiently waiting for a change in the weather-is a fairly common one in literature, especially picture books. But the heart and soul of this story is India, and properly so. It’s no surprise to anyone that reads this picture book that the author grew up in India. In the story India is not a far away or exotic place, it is home-and Ms. Krishnaswami’s poetic prose paints that love of her home on every page, with every word. The text on each page is brief, but it is text to be savored, full of rich imagery as everyone prepares for the monsoon rains. This is clear from the very first line: “All summer we have worn the scent of dust . . .” The author does not fall back on old clichés, but finds new metaphors to describe the town and the coming rains. The result is description that is refreshingly vibrant and just different enough to tantalize–but not to alienate-readers. It allows me to step into another country as if I were a native, experiencing the anticipation through the young narrator as she waits, worries and hopes for the rains to come. At the very back of the book the author has included a page of information about the monsoons and India for those who want to understand the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of the story better. The addition of the information at the back allows the author to accomplish the goal of sharing the knowledge without allowing it to bog down the text of the story itself. from Shamshad at Amazon [picture book, ages 4-8] *I’ll review this when I can get my hands on a copy.
A simple story about a crocodile who shows up unexpectedly in a village. Only little Meena knows what to do. The illustrations are two color block prints that give this picture book it’s quirky appeal. [picture book, ages 2-6]
The reviews at Amazon are a little harsh but I disagree. I really liked this chapter book about 12-year-old Maya who has returned to Southern India (Chennai) with her mother after her grandfather dies in order to sell his house. While the book is set in India and sparkles with imagery of rickshaws, crowded streets and the colorful personalities of their neighbors, the story is really about relationships: how Maya comes to terms with her parents’ divorce, Maya and her mother’s relationship with their housekeeper Kamala Mami and Kamala Mami’s complex relationship with her own son and daughter-in-law. To me, the tangled web of relationships is true to East Asian familial relationships and is a story that not only teaches about another culture but also how very alike we all are no matter where we hail from. [chapter book, ages 8-14]
Set in Bangladesh, the Rickshaw Girl is one of my favorite books (and it’s not just because I met Mitali Perkins who lives in my town). It’s a short chapter book about a girl who uses her artistic ability to help her sickly father support their family in an unexpected and gender bending way. Uplifting and very educational about the hardship of growing up in poverty in Bangladesh, this is a great read that transports the reader into a different culture and let’s you walk in their shoes. I find that it is as appealing to boys and girls. [short chapter book, ages 7-10]
3. My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Rao, illustrated by Nina Sabnani
This is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that collages sari fabrics with appealing drawings of multicultural children enveloped in the richly colored sari which can be anything from clothing to a hanky to a magical world of pretend. [picture book, ages 2-7]
The beauty of making a list on a topic that I know nothing about is discovering really outstanding authors and Uma Krishnaswami was my find from this list. I wasn’t able to find all her books at my library, but the ones I read were consistently sensitively told yet mesmerizing stories. Chachaji’s Cup is no different. This is an advanced picture book that tells of the hardships of Partition (when India was split from Pakistan and many, many people were forced to uproot and move based on their religion) but told from grandfather to grandson in a gentle way to explain the significance of a special teacup he uses every day. This teacup is symbolic of hope, resilience, memory and love, and bridges the new life in America from the old one in India. It’s a picture book that would be important in an elementary school classroom but would also be good at home for any child to understand how others arrived in America whether it’s someone in their family or a classmate. [picture book, ages 7-10]
1. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min
This is the book that started the list. It arrived in the mail and my youngest made me read it over and over again even though he’s never eaten Indian food nor knows what a roti is or tastes like. It didn’t matter. He loved this book which is a spin off Popeye but instead of spinach, it’s homemade roti that fortifies Dada-ji (and his grandson Aneel too!). The brightly colored illustrations are appealing and I also like how this book combines the old country with a modern, harmonious East Asian American family. But be careful, after reading this book, you will be craving roti! [picture book, ages 4-8]
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