Grace Lin: A Great Author/Illustrator Asian American Role Model Who Just Gets Better All The Time
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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