Tag Archives: chapter books

Exploring Vietnam: Kidlit and Culture GIVEAWAY

Bellas Vietnam Adventure, Vietnam, picture book, Vietnam picture book,

Congrats to Nathalie. She won the book!

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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.

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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!

Children’s Literature

The Lotus Seed, Vietman Picture Book, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic Mom 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 Diamond, http://PragmaticMom.com, Teach Me Tuesday Vietnam 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.

Andrea, vietnamese cookbook, teach me tuesday vietnam, pragmaticmom.com, pragmatic mom

Lemongrass Beef

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

Dipping sauce:

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.

Serve with:

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.

dragonboat racing, vietnam, teach me tuesday, pragmatic mom

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!

vietnamese lacquer art paintings, http://PragmaticMom.com, PragmaticMom

vietnam lacquer art, pragmaticmom, teach me tuesday vietnam

teach me tuesday vietnam, vietnamese lacquer painting, http://PragmaticMom.com, pragmatic mom

lacquer paintings vietnamese vietnam pragmaticmom.com, pragmatic mom teach me tuesday

vietnamese lacquer painting, http://pragamticmom.com, teach me tuesday

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2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Awards for Adult, YA and Children’s Literature

Asian chapter book, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, Wendy Shang, JadeLuckClub

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.

The Submission by Amy Waldman won the Adult Fiction award.

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.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang won the Children’s Literature award.

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.

Orchards by Holly Thompson won the Young Adult Literature award.

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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AAPI Children’s and Young Adult Lit Winners and Honorees for 2012 Newbery, APALA, Sibert and More!

best teen tween picture book chapter books for asian americans JadeLuckClubI 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).

Winners

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang  – Children’s Literature Award

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Orchards by Holly Thompson – Young Adult Literature Award

The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China by Ed Young  –  Picture Book Award.

 

Honor Books

Vanished by Sheela Chari– Honor Book, Children’s Literature Category.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang – Honor Book in the Young Adult Literature category.

Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min – Honor Book in the Picture Book category.

Other prestigious children’s and young adult honorees of Asian or Southeast Asian American or Pacific Islander descent  include:

Newbery Honor Winner

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Award

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

 2012 Pura Belpré Author Award and  Finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Stonewall Book Award

Money Boy by Paul Yee

William C. Morris Award Finalists

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

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Asian American Writers’ Workshop Winners, Scholarships for Adopted Korean Kids

Marie Myung-Ok Lee Asian American author writer JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

From Marie Myung-Ok Lee, A founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop

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.

  • Did you know that than only 5% of the reviewers and the authors reviewed in The New York Times Book Review and C-SPAN’s After Words are writers of color?
  • 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.

They also have great Writing Workshops if you are in NYC.

These are the scholarships and contests listed on Marie Myung-Ok Lee‘s Facebook page. Follow her to get updates.

Scholarships for Adopted Korean Children.

Pen New England contest for children’s book writers.

Got the volunteer jones? http://OccupyWriters.com/ needs new volunteers. “Bookish, familiar w/ broad range of writers, able to devote some time. write occupywriters@gmail.”

p.s. Here are books by author Marie Myung-Ok Lee and other great and Award Winning Asian American Children’s and Young Adult authors:

 To examine or purchase ANY book, please click on image of book.

Here are winner from the Asian American Writer’s Workshop:

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

 

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List of Winners
2010
Paul Yoon Once the Shore Sarabande Books, 2009
Minal Hajratwala Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents HoughtonMifflinHarcourt, 2009
Ronaldo V. Wilson Poems of the Black Object Futurepoem Books, 2009
Jason Koo * Man on Extremely Small Island C&R Press, 2009
2009
Jhumpa Lahiri Unaccustomed Earth Knopf, 2008
Sesshu Foster World Ball Notebook City Lights Books, 2008
Leslie T. Chang Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China Spiegel & Grau, 2009
2008
Mohsin Hamid The Reluctant Fundamentalist Harcourt, 2007
Vijay Prashad The Darker Nations New Press, 2007
Sun Yung Shin Skirt Full of Black Coffee House Press, 2007
Ed Lin * This Is a Bust Kaya Press, 2007
2007
Linh Dinh Borderless Bodies Factory School, 2006
Amitav Ghosh Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Samrat Upadhyay The Royal Ghosts Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Gene Luen Yang* American Born Chinese First Second Books, 2006
2006
Jeff Chang Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation Picador USA, 2005
Rattawut Lapcharoensap Sightseeing Grove Press, 2005
Shanxing Wang Mad Science in Imperial City Futurepoem Books, 2005
Ed Bok Lee * Real Karaoke People New Rivers Press, 2005
2005
Brian Leung World Famous Love Acts Sarabande Books, 2004
Suketu Mehta Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found Alfred Knopf, 2004
Srikanth Reddy Facts for Visitors Univ of California Press, 2004
Ishle Yi Park * The Temperature of this Water Kaya Press, 2004
2004
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge Nest Kelsey St. Press, 2003
Monique Truong The Book of Salt Houghton Mifflin, 2003
Vijay Vaitheeswaran Power to the People Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2003
Patrick Rosal * Uprock, Headspin, Scramble and Dive Persea Books, 2003
2003
Walter Lew Treadwinds: Poems and Intermedia Texts Wesleyan University Press, 2002
Meera Nair Video: Stories Pantheon Books, 2002
Julie Otsuka When the Emporer Was Divine Alfred A. Knopf, 2002
Ed Lin * Waylaid Kaya Press, 2002
2002
Alexander Chee Edinburgh Welcome Rain Press, 2001
Luis H. Francia Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago Kaya Press, 2001
Christina Chiu Troublemaker and Other Saints Little, Brown and Company, 2001
Don Lee * Yellow W.W. Norton, 2001
2001
Ha Jin Bridegroom and Other Stories Pantheon, 2000
Eugene Gloria Drivers at the Short Time Motel: Poems Penguin, 2000
Akhil Sharma An Obedient Father Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2000
Nick Carbo * Secret Asian Man Tia Chucha Press, 2000
2000
Eric Gamalinda Zero Gravity Alice James Books, 1999
Chang-rae Lee A Gesture Life Riverhead Books, 1999
Bino Realuyo * Umbrella Country Ballantine, 1999
1999
Susan Choi The Foreign Student HarperCollins Publishers, 1998
Arthur Sze The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-98 Copper Canyon Press, 1998
1998
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge Endocrinology Kelsey Street Press, 1997
Lois-Ann Yamanaka Blu’s Hanging Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997

 

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KidLit and Culture: Burma (Myanmar) Children’s lit, recipes, history and more…

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!

Children’s Literature

Picture Book

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:

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins (Young Adult Fiction)

  • “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.

These photos are from Molon Gallery in Burma
Thabyinnyu Pagoda
Evening View of Bagan Plain
The Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, Burma

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
Ingredients:
  • Chicken (breast, thighs, skin removed)
  • Chicken stock/broth
  • Coconut milk can
  • Gram flour
  • Turmeric and Paprika
  • Fish sauce
  • Onions (cut into big chunks or use whole if small. Pearl onions will do also).
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • 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
  • Fish sauce
  • 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)
Ingredients:
  • Cucumbers (skin on, halved lengthwise and sliced about ¼ inch thick or so). Estimate about 1-2cucumber a person (it will really shrink!)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sesame seeds if desired
  • Slivered ginger
  • Slivered garlic (if desired)
  • Oil
  • 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.
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Top 10: Best Southeast Asian Children’s Books (ages 2-14)

Best southeast asian children's books kidlit jadeluckclub jade luck club pragmatic mom

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).

Honorable Mention

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.

Bindi Babes series by Narinder Dhami

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.

Bollywood Babes

 

10. The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami

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]

9. The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami

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)

8. Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami

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.

7. Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami

Asha arrives at long last from India to her new adopted bi-racial family in the United States, just in time to celebrate Rakhi Day with her new older brother Arun. [picture book, ages 4-8]

6. Catch That Crocodile! by Anushka Ravishankar

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]

5. Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami

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]

4Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

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]

2. Chachaji’s Cup by Uma Krishnaswami

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]

To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

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Bangladesh: KidLit and Culture (Alpanas, Chholey recipe and more)

White Alpana Bangladesh JadeLuckClub Exploring Asia for Families kids children

We are exploring the country of Bangladesh, a country I knew so little about that I didn’t actually know how to spell it. Thank you spell checker!  I do have a friend from Japan who was born and raised in Bangladesh.  He speaks perfect English, Japanese, and Bengali, so clearly he’s among the elite of his countrymen.  My other Bengali experience is when I had the great pleasure of meeting author Mitali Perkins when she visited my 3rd grade girls’ book club (she does school visits also).  During the book club meeting, Mitali captivated the girls and boys (3rd Grade Boys Book club also attended) with stories about growing up in Bangladesh as well as the power of micro lending that is transforming the country today so I included a picture book on that as well.  The main character in her book, The Rickshaw Girl, is the best painter of alpanas in her village and this proves to be a transformative skill.

Personally, I find the alpanas stunning.  I hope they inspire the inner artist in you or your child.  Our book club activity was creating our own Alpanas by painting white designs on brown tag board and the results were incredible.  I wish I had saved my daughter’s!  In Bangladesh, women also create alpanas using colored spices and powdered rice and I’ve included some gorgeous examples below. Today, you will notice how the designs  in the alpanas are applied to things like jewelry. I’ve included the talented contemporary jewelry designer, aptly named Alpana Gujral, should you need holiday gift ideas.

Finally, my Coop Preschool Mom Friend gave me the recipe for my favorite Spicy Indian Chickpeas called Chholey.  And yes, I’ve made then and they are delicious but mine are never as good as my Mom Friend’s.  Some things just don’t translate!

map of bangladesh, http://pragmaticMOm.com, Teach Me Tuesday

The Books

micro lending, a basket of bangles, ginger howard, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic Mom

A Basket of Bangles by Ginger Howard and Cheryl Kirk Noll.  This picture book demonstrates the power of micro-lending and the huge impact it can have improving impoverished lives in Bangladesh.  The book is out of print but might be at your local public library.  This book would be great for grades 3-5 though, as a picture book, the writing and pictures would connect with a younger audience though the idea of poverty and micro financing might be to advanced for them. [picture book for ages 6-12]

Rickshaw Girl, Mitali Perkins, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic Mom, Bengladesh,

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins. Naima is a ten-year-old girl, too young and the wrong sex to help her impoverished family with their family business of  pedaling a rickshaw.  Her father is ill and there isn’t much money for the medicine he needs so Naima tries to pedal the heavy rickshaw.  Disaster happens and the rickshaw, their family livelihood, is damaged.  Naima ultimately finds that she can use her talent as an artist, honed by creating the best alpanas in her village, to help create a better life for her family.  [chapter book, ages 8-12]

Brief History of Bangladesh

I knew so little of Bangladesh history that I searched online for information and found a useful but brief summary from Bengla2000.  I’ve further condensed it to four paragraphs but please go to the site if you want more information.  Who knew that Bengal was a wealthy and prosperous country during the 16th century but was decimated by a series of invaders including Turkistan, Great Britain, and Pakistan??!!

“Bangladesh came to today’s shape through a long history of political evolution. Bengal was probably the wealthiest part of the subcontinent up till the 16th century. The area’s early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance. All of this was just a prelude to the unstoppable tide of Islam which washed over northern India at the end of the 12th century. Mohammed Bakhtiar Khalzhi from Turkistan captured Bengal in 1199 with only 20 men.

The decline of Mughal power led to greater provincial autonomy, heralding the rise of the independent dynasty of the nawabsof Bengal. Humble East India Company clerk Robert Clive ended up effectively ruling Bengal when one of the impetuousnawabs attacked the thriving British enclave in Calcutta and stuffed those unlucky enough not to escape in an underground cellar. Clive retook Calcutta a year later and the British Government replaced the East India Company following the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

Inequalities between the two regions i.e. East and West Pakistan soon stirred up a sense of Bengali nationalism that had not been reckoned with during the push for Muslim independence. When the Pakistan government declared that `Urdu and only Urdu’ would be the national language, the Bangla-speaking Bengalis decided it was time to assert their cultural identity. The drive to reinstate the Bangla language metamorphosed into a push for self-government and when the Awami League, a nationalistic party, won a majority in the 1971 national elections, the president of Pakistan, faced with this unacceptable result, postponed opening the National Assembly. Riots and strikes broke out in East Pakistan, the independent state of Bangladesh was unilaterally announced, and Pakistan sent troops to quell the rebellion.

The ruined and decimated new country experienced famine in 1973-74, followed by martial law, successive military coups and political assassinations. In 1979, Bangladesh began a short-lived experiment with democracy led by the overwhelmingly popular President Zia, who established good relationships with the West and the oil-rich Islamic countries. His assassination in 1981 ultimately returned the country to a military government that periodically made vague announcements that elections would be held `soon’. While these announcements were rapturously greeted by the local press as proof that Bangladesh was indeed a democracy, nothing came of them until 1991. That year the military dictator General Ershad was forced to resign by an unprecedented popular movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League.”

Alpanas

These stunning creations are made from ground rice and spices and are created by women or girls in celebration of the Hindu holiday, Diwali, the festival of lights (a.k.a. Dawali or Deepavli). We made alpanas for our book club meeting on the Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins.  Here’s what you need:

  • Some examples of alpanas for inspiration
  • Brown poster board or cardboard from a box
  • White poster paint
  • Paint brushes (thin ones are best)

We did not attempt the colored spice version.  You could try that if you are a brave soul, but that sounded awfully messy to me!  If I were to do that, I’d probably use stick glue or white glue with paint brushes and purchase ground spices at a discount store.  To create the designs, I would have the children create the first shape with the glue, sprinkle the the spice over the glue, and shake off the excess. Yes, it probably would create an epic mess!  Another idea is to let them draw them on paper using crayons, paint, oil, or chalk pastels.

Here are some gorgeous examples.  Isn’t is amazing how creativity is like a beacon that can brighten any environment, no matter how poor? And from such humble materials, something so visually stunning can be created?

Rangoli designs, alpanas, bengali, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic momrangoli designs, alpanas, rickshaw girl, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic Mom

Rangoli, Diwali, home decorations in India Bangladesh, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic MomRangoli, alpana, http://PragmaticMom.com Pragmatic Momalpana white, diwali, rickshaw girl activity for book club, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic Mom, PragmaticMom

Alpana Jewelry

Holidays are approaching so jewelry ideas might be appropriate here?!  I found a jewelry designer aptly named Alpana Gujral who has gorgeous stuff evocative of alpana patterns.  Here’s the link to her site and blog. I wish I had more images of her jewelry but they were impossible to hijack from her website.  If you go to her website, be sure to see her Necklace Sets and Bracelets.  They are going to be on my Christmas wish list!

Alpana Gujral jewelry, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic MomAlpana Jewelry, http://PragmaticMom.com, Pragmatic Mom

The Recipe

Spicy Indian Chickpeas (Chholey)

I love Indian food but my husband does not so I usually eat the kind out of pouches when I need a fix.  I am sorry that I don’t have a recipe that is specific to Bangladesh, but I learned from the history that culturally, that the cuisine is SPICY and resembles East Indian food.  Vegetarian curries such as Chholey are a staple.  For more information on Bangladeshi cuisine, click here.

2 cans chickpeas (or 2 cups dried chickpeas)

3 medium sized tomatoes

2 medium sized onions

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced

3 cloves garlic

1 small stick of cinnamon

3-4 whole cloves

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric (powdered)

1 teaspoon coriander (powdered)

red chili powder to taste

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

Canola or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon Punjabi Chholey powder (online source: Shop Organic or make your own)

1) Soak the dried chickpeas overnight and boil them until tender OR used canned ones.  (I use canned).

2) Cut onions and tomatoes into big pieces (quartered).

3) Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok and heat it using medium high heat.  Add cloves, cinnamon, and cumin seeds.  As they sputter, add the onions. Cook onions until lightly brown in color, about 10 minutes.

4) Add ginger and garlic and saute for two minutes then add tomatoes and stir them until the juices are released.  Turn off heat and let the mixture cool down.

5) Use food processor or blender and pour in mixture from wok.  Process or blend until the mixture forms a paste.

6) Using the same wok at low heat and add another tablespoon of oil and heat it.  Add the paste to the oil.  Keep stirring until the sides of the paste is leaving oil.

7) Add powdered turmeric powder, powdered coriander, salt to taste, red chile powder, and Punjabi Chholey powder to the pan.  Stir for a minute then add the chickpeas.

8) Add a little water if the mixture is dry.

9) Add yogurt.

10) Simmer for 10 minutes.

11) Garnish with fresh cilantro if you wish.

12) Serve hot with rice or any kind of bread (Naan is nice!).

This freezes nicely.  From Kashmira, my Coop Preschool Mom Friend.

To view any book more closely in Amazon, please click on image of book.

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Meet Wendy Shang: The Amy Tan of Children’s Lit (The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, ages 9-12)

Meet Wendy Shang, a shining voice in children’s literature that actually portrays Asian Americans as we are — not nerdy, tweaky, math wizards — but nuanced balancing the tightrope of assimilating versus being Asian that we all walk. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is her first chapter book for ages 9-12 but it’s a break out! Expect it to win many awards this year. I can’t wait to read more of her work, so much so that I tracked her down for an interview.
Children's author Wendy Shang The Great Wall of Lucy Wu Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club best Asian American authors children's books
1) Tell me about growing up.Where did you live? Siblings? Where are you parents from? Any semblance of Tiger Mom or Dad?I still live near where I grew up – in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC – but it was quite different then!  It’s so diverse here now – you might see someone in a hijab working at the sushi counter or hear a call for any Nepali speakers at the library – but I was the only Asian student in my first elementary school for a long time (and I still remember the name of the second Asian student because I felt so relieved when she arrived).  My parents were born in China, but spent their young adult years in Taiwan before coming to the US.They were absolutely NOT Tiger parents.  When that book first came out, in fact, my mother was concerned that people would think she had been a Tiger Mom because my brother and I had done pretty well in school, become a doctor and lawyer, that sort of thing.  They certainly had high expectations, but it was up to us to get there.  Both of my parents gave us a lot of freedom in that regard, but did let us know that education was a family priority and that they were ready to make sacrifices for us. 
2) When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did your parents feel? What did you do to pursue?It’s funny – I LOVED to write as a kid.  I wrote my first book in kindergarten, won awards for writing in elementary school, and maintained a weekly “serial” with a friend in high school.  But somehow, making a career out of writing didn’t even seem like a possibility to me.  The idea of an author as a real, live person was a bit odd!I took up writing while I was a stay-at-home mom.  My parents were really supportive of me being a stay-at-home mom, and so moving to writing wasn’t a big leap to them, I think.  My husband, though, really hung in there for me, especially in the early days when I would leave him with three small children after he had a full work day so I could take a class on writing for children.  My first course was at the Writer’s Center with Mary Quattlebaum, and I remember just feeling electrified when I went to class.  It was probably a small miracle that I didn’t drive off the road in pure excitement. 
3) Your character, Lucy, seems to nail exactly what it’s like to walk the tightrope between assimilating and being Asian.How much of Lucy is you?There are aspects of me that are definitely in Lucy; I drew a lot upon my memories of feeling alienated as a kid.  But Lucy is really her own person.  One thing I really love about having LUCY out in the world is how many different people come to me and say, “My family is from [insert any country], but I really relate to your book!”
4) Do you have children? If you do or intend to, how will you raise your children with respect to their Asian heritage?I do have children.  I would say that the best thing I’m doing for them with respect to their heritage is living near their grandparents, where they can hear lots of stories and discussions about their family’s history.
5) What are you working on now?
I am working on a baseball book set in the 1970s.
6) What authors had the greatest influence on you?What were your favorite authors growing up? Now?When I was a kid, I really loved Judy Blume.  I felt like she really understood me, and of course, there was Tracey Wu from BLUBBER.  There weren’t a lot of Asian characters in pop culture aside from Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, and seeing a girl like me in a book was so gratifying.  I also liked Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ellen Conford and John Fitzgerald.  And to me, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is pure perfection.Right now, I’m going through a heavy boy phase, because I’m working on a boy character.  I really enjoyed Kurtis Scaletta’s Mamba Point, and Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now has just captured my heart as a reader and my mind as a writer.  On the “adult” side of reading, I’ll read anything by Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Ann Patchett and Jhumpa Lahiri. 
7) What advice would you give to someone who says that they want to be an author?I would say, don’t think about being an “author.”  I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by that.  Just think about writing.  Try to write a little bit every day.  Maybe write about what you ate, or look for a funny little situation that captures your imagination.  Write about something that made you angry or delighted or sad or puzzled.  Then after you’ve written a bit, go back and look at what you’ve written down.  You may hate some of it, but chances are, you’ll find something that you like and would be willing to write a little more on.

To view Wendy’s book at Amazon, just click on image of book. I also have reviews here on my other blog, PragmaticMom.

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Top 10: Best Japanese American Children’s Books (ages 2-16)

best japanese american children's books kidlit pragmaticmom jadeluckclub jade luck club japanese american picture books best summer reading lists The story of Japanese immigration is also true for my own family history.  Changes in Japan during the Meiji Restoration from 1868 to 1912 wrought great changes in Japan as the country tried to modernize.  The old feudal system of titled landowners was abruptly stripped away, and the daimyo domains of titled landowners were turned into prefectures.   For those families including my own, they were forced to buy back their own lands as some of their lost lands included sacred family burial grounds.  To earn the money, large numbers of Japanese men found work in Hawaii in the pineapple and sugar cane plantations and from there, migrated to the mainland.

Following in the wake of the Chinese immigrants marked the Japanese immigrants as a part of that group, and resulted in a negative attitude towards the Japanese immigrants almost immediately and this negative attitude lasted for more than 50 years.  At war with Japan during WWII brought prejudice and fear of Japanese Americans to new heights and resulted in forced internment camps, a low point for American history.

Throughout it all, Japanese Americans perserved, pushing their children into lucrative careers in the sciences and trying to assimilate post WWII so that they would encounter less prejudice.  I think this is the reason for a relative dearth of well known Japanese-American children’s authors, which the  one exception being Cynthia Kadohata.  It was strange to me that many important Japanese stories were not told by Japanese Americans.  I tried, therefore, to focus my list on lesser known authors telling important stories.  I hope this list will inspire more authors in this genre!

For a brief history of Japanese immigration, please see this link:  http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/Japanese.html

Honorable Mentions

Umbrella by Taro Yashima

With Japanese words throughout, this is a sweet and gentle story of a little girl, Momo (peach in Japanese),  who is excited to use her new present of an umbrella and new rain boots. [picture book, ages 4-8]

The Inn-Keepers Apprentice by Allen Say

I tire a little of all the WWII internment story lines.  I do think it’s important, but there is more to the Japanese American experience that just that period of time. When I found this book at the library, I was surprised that Allen Say wrote middle grade fiction. I always thought of him as a picture book illustrator and author. I read the book, expecting not to like it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it kept my interest. First of all, though the book is set in post WWII Japan, the book focuses on a coming-of-age story of a middle grade boy who is unusual for many reasons.  His mother comes from a Samurai aristocratic background but married a Korean.  Then got divorced! That is very unusual for this time. And the boy is determined to apprentice with a famous cartoonist. I wondered if the story rang so true because it was Say’s own story. I finished the book, satisfied by a good read and then researched it.  Yes, it is his own story and what a fascinating person he is! [chapter book, ages 9-14]

The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida

I read this story a long time ago and remembered that it was a particularly sad story of internment that I couldn’t bring myself to read to my girls. The little Japanese girl is given a bracelet by her American friend that she brings to internment camp that gets lost.   [picture book, ages 8-12]

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

A story about post bombing Hiroshima where Sadako, who loves to run, becomes ill due to the radiation from the bomb.  It is believed in Japan that folding a thousand paper cranes brings girls good luckand good health.  [chapter book, ages 8-12]

[chapter book, ages 10-14]

An Illustrated History of Japan by Shigeo Nishimura

A gorgeously illustrated history of Japan.  It would be a great reference book, particularly to look through for the artwork.  Each period of history is briefly detailed.   [picture book, ages 8-12]


10. Suki’s Kimonoby Chieri Uegaki

Even though Suki’s sisters teaser her, she wears her beloved kimono (yukata) to the first day of school.  It was a gift from her obachan, grandmother, and she has especially fond memories of spending time at a (obon) street festival dancing with her.  But is it a good idea to look so different?  [picture book, ages 4-7]

 

9. Yoko’s Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells

Rosemary Well’s has incorporated traditional Japanese art themes into her luscious illustrations about Yoko communicating with her grandparents back in Japan.  A sweet and endearing story.  [picture book, ages 2-6]

8. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai

A bi-lingual (Japanese/English) story about the author’s grandmother who was interned at Topaz and really did grow 8 foot sunflowers in the desert.  A stoic story about coping with internment.  This is the author’s first book.  [picture book, ages 7-11]

 

7. A Jar of Dreams by Yoshiko Uchida

11-year-old Rinko lives in Berkeley, California during the Great Depression and life isn’t easy, especially when you are Japanese American because she encounters prejudice almost daily. When her family opens a small laundry, their local competitor, a well known bigot and bully, threatens them.  Things change when her Aunt Waka comes to visit from Japan,  and she helps to convince them to chase their dreams, even if it seems improbable that they will be given the same opportunities as non-Asians.  Despite the prejudice that her family faces, Rinko learns to take pride in her Japanese self.

A Jar of Dreams is an accurate protrait of what life was like for Japanese immigrants pre- WWII, but it also details the determination, hard-work, and strong familial bonds that propelled them to succeed.  [chapter book, ages 10-14]

 

6. Tokyo Friends by Betty Reynolds

Katie is a young American girl living in modern-day Tokyo.  Spend time with Katie and her Japanese friends learning about Japanese culture, holidays and the Japanese language. And the story rhymes! [picture book, ages 2-12]

5. Tea With Milk by Alan Say

May’s parents return to Japan and it’s a tough adjustment for her to make.  She prefers her tea with milk and sugar but in Japan, she must drink green tea, go to high school all over again to learn to be a proper Japanese lady, and assume her Japanese name, Masako.  Finally, she rebels and  moves to Osaka where she gets a job and meets a man that prefers his tea with milk and sugar.  This is the love story of Alan Say’s parents. [picture book, ages 6-9]

4. Kira-Kiraby Cynthia Kadohata

This Newbery Award winning novel is a Japanese Grapes of Wrath story about the Takashima family as they move  from Iowa to Georgia in the 1950’s and work menial, grueling jobs at a non-unionized poultry farm.  The three kids, Lynn, Katie and Sammy,  manage to have fun and dream of better times ahead despite their difficult conditions until Lynn comes down with a fatal illness.  The book manages to portray life for post-WWII Japanese Americans  in an insightful and realistic way.  [chapter book, ages 10-14]

3. Weedflowerby Cynthia Kadohata

From Starred Review, School Library Journal. Grade 5-8–When Pearl Harbor is attacked, the lives of a Japanese-American girl and her family are thrown into chaos. Sumiko, 12, and her younger brother, Tak-Tak, live with their aunt and uncle, grandfather Jiichan, and adult cousins on a flower farm in Southern California. Though often busy with chores, Sumiko enjoys working with the blossoms, particularly stock, or weedflowers (fragrant plants grown in a field). In the difficult days that follow the bombing, the family members fear for their safety and destroy many of their belongings. Then Uncle and Jiichan are taken to a prison camp, and the others are eventually sent to an assembly center at a racetrack, where they live in a horse stable. When they’re moved to the Arizona desert, Sumiko misses the routine of her old life and struggles with despair. New friends help; she grows a garden with her neighbor and develops a tender relationship with a Mohave boy. She learns from him that the camp is on land taken from the Mohave reservation and finds that the tribe’s plight parallels that of the incarcerated Japanese Americans. Kadohata brings into play some complex issues, but they realistically dovetail with Sumiko’s growth from child to young woman. She is a sympathetic heroine, surrounded by well-crafted, fascinating people. The concise yet lyrical prose conveys her story in a compelling narrative that will resonate with a wide audience.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA .  [chapter book, ages 12-16]

2. So Far From the Sea by Eve Bunting

Laura Iwaski and her family visit her grandfather’s grave at the Manzanar War Relocation center where he died during internment.  Both her parents were relocated though at different camps.  Her father was a little boy when this happened and this marks the last time they will visit before moving to Boston.  Their final visit sums up the attitude of most Japanese-Americans who were forced to relocate:  a terrible thing that happened to them.   But , as the Dad says, “Sometimes in the end thre is no right or wrong.  It is just a thing that happened long years ago.  A thing that cannot be changed.”  [picture book, ages 8-12]

1. Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

Ken Mochizuki’s were interned at Minidoka Internment camp in Idaho, and this is the story based on true events, of how they used baseball to cope.  The little boy in the story is small for his age, but perserves to become an excellent player.  The story continues post-internment and things are not better.  Luckily, the boy’s skill in baseball helps to bring everyone together.  This is the author’s first picture book. [picture book, ages 8-12]

To examine any book more closely, please click on image of book.

 

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Top 10: Best Korean American Children’s Books (ages 2-16)

Best Korean American Children's Books Literature KidLit Young Adult Books Fiction JadeLuckClub, Jade Luck Club, Pragmatic Mom http://JadeLuckClub.com My husband is Korean and I joke that the Koreans are nicknamed “The Irish of Asia.”   Like the Irish, they have a strong culture despite a long history of invasion and occupation.  Like the Irish, they have a penchant for drinking and fighting.  And like the Irish, there is a vein of melancholy than runs through their DNA.   Or at least, this is my take on it.

When my 4th grader did a unit on immigration, they covered many nationalities — she did Japan — but not Korea.  I think it’s because the Korean immigration story to the United States is a fairly new one that began in earnest after the Korean War [think M.A.S.H.!].  And the Korean immigrants, more so than other Asian nationalities, have made it to the United States in pursuit of higher education, and thus, when they stayed, they were able to land squarely in the middle  class.

The Korean American authors have a unique stories to tell.  Their collective memories of the old country are still fresh, as is their immigrant experience.  And if you use food to tell the story of a culture as I do, Korean cuisine is becoming the Next Big Thing.  Or at least in New York City that seems to mark the beginning of every big food trend.  My husband and I found it amusing when we visited NYC a few years ago that the big trend was upscale, fancy Korean restaurants.  We lived near Korea Town in Los Angeles for many years so we equate good Korean food with small, but clean “dive.”

In any case, ride the trend and enjoy these 10 Korean American children’s books with your children.


Honorable Mentions

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak

Juno is a little boy who receives a letter from his grandmother in Korea. He can’t read Korean and his parents are busy with the usual household chores.  Despite the language barrier, he is able to understand the letter though his mother eventually translates it for him. The letter is special as are the enclosures — a dried flower and a photo of his grandmother and her new cat. And Juno decides to write a letter back. One that will also transcend their language barrier. He makes several drawings and encloses a very large leaf. And so they write each other back and forth … at least until she comes to visit! [picture book, ages 4-9]

The Korean Frogs: A Korean Folktale Retold by Yumi Heo

This is a cute picture book that tells the story of naughty frogs who don’t listen to their mother. A fun and funny story to remind the kiddos to listen to mom! [picture book, ages 3-8]

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

When Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, she is a little embarrassed by her name so she tells her new classmates that she doesn’t have one.  They all help to choose a new one for her by putting choices into a jar but in the end, Unhei decides that her Korean name is just perfect.  This is the perfect book for anyone with an “ethic first or middle name” that they are a little embarrassed about.  [picture book, ages 5-9]

F is for Fabuloso by Marie G. Lee

I happened upon this Korea-American author for grades 4-6th and wanted to share it because it’s a fabuloso book!  It’s unclear why her book didn’t make a bigger splash when it came out about 10 years ago.  She’s a really vibrant voice for Asian American children’s literature so I wanted to let you know about her.  The author is a second generation Korean American and grew up in Minnesota much like her lead character, Jin-Ha, in F is for Fabuloso.   It’s a tender and gentle story about straddling two worlds especially as the go-between for her mother who is shy to speak English.  [chapter book, ages 8-12]

If It Hadn’t Been for Yoon Jun is another book, also by Maria G. Lee,  that I was trying to locate at the library which I wasn’t able to find yet, but I suspect it is also very good.  I will find it and update you! [chapter book, ages 8-12]

Count Your Way through Korea by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Dennis Hockerman

This seems like a basic counting book on the outside, but it’s actually packed with interesting factoids about Korean culture.  AND the text is really advanced; it’s actually too hard for a toddler or preschooler learning how to count to 10.  I’d just this to teach older kids, say in elementary school or learning a Korean version of Karate, how to count to 1o in Korean. [picture book, ages 6-9]

Count Your Way through Korea, learn korean numbers, pragmatic mom

The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Ruth Heller

This is the Korean version of Cinderella set in olden-times Korea.  [folk tale picture book, ages 4-8]

Korean Cinderella story set in olden times, pragmatic mom, pragmaticmom.com

Chi-Hoon, A Korean Girl by Patricia McMahon with photographs by Michael F. O’Brien

This is a day-in-the-life glimpse of an elementary school aged girl, Chi-Hoon.  My oldest found it fascinating to learn about life in modern day Korea.  The reading level is perfect for grades 3-5.  [non-fiction, ages 8-12]

Chi-Hoon, life in modern day Korea pragmaticmom.com

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10. Sumi’s First Day of School Everby Soyung Pak.

Sumi doesn’t speak English and today is her very first day of school ever.  Will it go well?  [picture book for ages 2-7]

9. Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park.

A light-hearted rhyming picture book on a favorite Korean national dish.  It’s popular in restaurants but it evolved as a way to use up all the leftovers.  In this book, a family spends all day preparing this little girl’s favorite meal.  With a recipe at the end!  [picture book for ages 2-5]

8. Where on Earth is My Bagel? by Frances and Ginger Park.

A whimsical story about a little Korean boy who dreams of a New York bagel and, with the help of his friends, is able to make one.  [picture book for ages 3-7]

7. Halmoni and the Picnicby Sook Nyul Choi.

An advanced picture book about a girl and her Korean grandmother and how they both learn to bridge the cultural gap with food.   [picture book for ages 5-8]

6. Yunmi and Halmoni’s Tripby Sook Nyul Choi.

Halmoni takes her granddaughter on a trip back to Korea to meet the family, but Yunmi worries that her grandmother might not want to come back.  [picture book for ages 5-8]

5. Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent.

14-year-old Joseph Caldararo has a loving family and is a well-adjusted popular kid at school.  But when his social studies teacher assigns a paper on Your Cultural heritage, his world gets turned upside down.  He knows he’s adopted from Korea when he was just an infant and it’s never really bothered him before, but now it does.  It doesn’t help that the new dry cleaners are taken over by a Korean family who are off-out by his adoption.  And it makes his parents upset when he wants to learn more about his own cultural heritage.  His best friend assists him in conducting an internet search to try to trace his parents but that’s a long shot at best!  But what to write for this paper?  His confusion about who he is leads him down a path of deceit and now everything is a mess.  On top of this, he’s trying to get a date for the school dance.  Whoever said that middle school is tough is right!  [chapter book, ages 9-12]

4. The Year of Impossible Goodbyesby Sook Nyul Choi.

A haunting but ultimately uplifting story of author Sook Nyul Choi’s experience living in war-torn North Korea.  [chapter book for middle schoolers]

3. The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park.

Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one  skilled in kite making and the other skilled in  kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite flying contest on behalf of the king.  [ages 7-12]

2. Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park.

A glimpse into the lives of the  nobility during the Golden Age of Korea and the restrictions placed on women.  [chapter book for ages 8-12]

1. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.

Newbery award winning book about a famous potter during the Golden Age of Korea.  [chapter book for ages 8-12]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

 

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