Author Interview with June Jo Lee & Man One

“Remix” is integral in Chef Roy Choi’s work as he uses food to remix culture and communities. What does remix mean to you and does it apply to your daily work?

JJL: As a food ethnographer, I think about “remix” all the time! Remix is now the culinary code for good and interesting food, not just in America but in the world. Remix represents a growing circle of empathy in which traditional walls between “us v. them” are cracking up and breaking down. We naturally express our remix identities and experiences by cooking and sharing foods we know and can imagine. As an immigrant, I am a “remix” of Seoul, Pusan, “Korea,” Texas, California, and “America.”  As a student of cultural anthropology, remix represents the concept of bricoleur which (I immediately fell in love with) means someone who takes whatever is on hand to mix-and-match and create their own identity, meaning and truths.  This is me. When Chef Roy Choi put Korean BBQ in a tortilla with Awesome sauce on a food truck and announced it on Twitter to the world, he was speaking to me.

M1: As an old school hip-hop head, REMIX to me means the fresh mixing of music or visual flavor and by flavor I mean style!  I have created many murals and pieces of art where I have taken something cultural or iconic from my Mexican culture and “remixed” it to make it relevant to a new generation. It’s a lot of fun to do but also a great way to pass on legacy to future generations of young people.  

Something Personal

By Soman Chainani

Writing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL series is like running a fantasy corporation. Six years into writing, five books later, I wake up every day and juggle over 150 characters, 40 plot lines, and a world so big it feels like it’s outgrowing my own head. But it’s what I was born to do – write big worlds and sophisticated stories that can keep up with a clever child’s imagination. 

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But there was something else I was born to do, only I never thought I’d find an outlet to do it: tell my own story.

And my most personal story is about my grandmother, who without sounding too crass, was a person far more significant in my life than my own parents. We shared the same birthday. We both liked gourmet food and fancy hotels, even if we couldn’t afford them. We both were highly suspicious of my grandfather. And most of all, we were deeply, deeply unhappy.

But Nani didn’t want me to be. And something about my own unhappiness made her intolerant of her own.

And so the summer trips began.

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The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan; illustrated by Tom Knight (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR, February 2018). All rights reserved. @macmillanchildrensbooks

We’ve Been Waiting in the Wings Forever: A Queer Theater Story

By Amy Rose Capetta

I discovered the joys of theater in middle school for a sad but simple reason: I was quitting dance. At the age of twelve, I was told by my teacher that I couldn’t continue at an advanced level without losing a significant amount of weight. The issue of body policing in the performing arts comes up in my YA novel Echo After Echo, specifically for the main character, Zara, who is not the waifish ingénue people have come to expect. Fortunately, when I chose to leave dance behind, I fell into theater, and despite being a different body type than many of my fellow actresses, I found roles and fell in love with acting.

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My new life of green rooms and backstage bonding brought my first queer friends. It’s no real secret that the theater world, from the professional stages in NYC to the drama clubs in most schools are havens for creative and hardworking LGBTQIAP folks. Before I even knew I was queer, I found my people, and they shared my fervor for story-making, a heady mix of love and ambition that still drives me. We collected, we rehearsed, we constructed sets with questionable structural integrity, we held our hearts outside of our bodies night after night, we threw AMAZING cast parties.

Author Q&A with Nikki Grimes

Check out our Q&A with Nikki Grimes, author of THE WATCHER ( Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, October 2017)!

1. What inspired you to write The Watcher?

A few years ago, I was invited to write a Golden Shovel poem for The Golden Shovel Anthology, a collection honoring the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet, Gwendolyn Brooks.  This new poetry form, created by Terence Hayes specifically for this anthology, was brand new, and so this was my first introduction to it.  I fell immediately in love with the form and could not wait to use it again, for a project of my own.  One of the first two ideas that came to me was to apply the form to the exploration of a Psalm.  It seemed perfect.  The Psalms are poetry, after all, and the Golden Shovel is all about borrowing lines from existing poems to create new ones.  The question, of course, was which Psalm.  I had a picture book in mind, and in order for this treatment to work for a picture book, the Psalm had to be relatively short, and so I searched for just the right one.  Psalm 121 is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and the length seemed exactly right.

Nocturnal Villains: The Antidote to Bullying

Contributed by Tracey Hecht

I remember when I was a kid that adults would often respond to my beliefs on social, human, and political positions with some version of: Well, you won’t feel that way when you grow up. I was raised in a conservative town with conservative ideals (starting, I suppose, with the belief that kids’ opinions were not of equal value!). But I remember thinking, even at the time: Oh, I bet you’re wrong about that. I bet I’ll feel exactly the same way when I grow up.

Well, I’m grown up! Or I am at least by the measures specified by the adults of my childhood, and I in fact do feel the same way on most of those issues. With the confidence of age, I might even maintain some of my positions more vigorously.

I am currently the writer of a book series for seven- to twelve-year-olds. The series has some other stuff I still like from childhood: imagination, mystery, a little bit of adventure. But in these books I also focus a lot on compassion and understanding. In particular, I extend these themes to my villains. I do this because my human, social, and political views are, at their core, founded in the belief that humans are the same. People of all gender, color and income levels—we’re not as far apart as we sometimes appear. In fact, our distance is sometimes our shared vulnerabilities and insecurities, just expressed in different ways.

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The Changing Face of Family

Contributed by Natasha Friend

Every book has a conception story. Mine begins with the shameless binge-watching of an MTV reality series called “Generation Cryo.” Over the course of six episodes, the show follows 17-year-old Breeanna, daughter of a lesbian couple who was conceived via sperm donation, on a search for her genetic half-siblings. Thanks to the Donor Sibling Registry, Bree connects with Jonah and Hilit and Jayme and Jesse and Paige and Molly and Will, and ultimately brings everyone together to track down their biological father.

Prior to watching the show, I had only a cursory understanding of sperm donation and its effects on families. I understood the science, but I knew nothing of the emotional fallout—of how angry and hurt and confused some donor-conceived children could grow up to be, or how fraught the relationships with the non-biological parents who were raising them could become. I was fascinated by the idea of a new “insta-family.” Unlike children conceived via sperm donation prior to the 1990’s, today’s generation of donor-conceived kids have access to Internet search engines, registry websites, social media, and video chat technology, all of which allow them to connect with their genetic half-siblings, and even with their sperm donor, in a mind-blowingly short amount of time.

As a 21st century mom, psychology major, and YA author, how could I not write a book about this? 

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Making a Difference

Contributed by Audrey Penn

The most important thing I can do as an author of children’s books is offer stories that open communication between child and parent. In my Kissing Hand series, it is Mrs. Raccoon who helps Chester through his many issues and difficulties beginning with separation anxiety. Other books in the series deal with new siblings, moving, bullying, dying, fear of speaking in front of others and wanting to return home during a sleep over. These are issues all children face, but with the help of books and characters like Chester Raccoon, and the caretakers and teachers who bring them to life, children can face issues armed with understanding and a sense of self.

When writing, I often think about the brilliant diversity of color and sound, shape and size, and speed and agility that is present in the animal kingdom. Most people embrace these amazing differences with open minds and without prejudice. It is because we all too often close our minds to the beautiful diversity in people that I stay within the animal kingdom when writing my children’s books.

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Not So Simple

Contributed by Susan Tan

“It’s simple, Susan.  Just pick one. Which would you rather be?”

It was my first day of first grade at a new school, and we were playing a getting-to-know-you game that doubled as a class-demographics survey. We had divided ourselves into groups based on favorite ice cream flavor, age, favorite animal, and zip code, laughing over shared interests.

Then came a question on race. I thought seriously for a moment as the other kids sorted themselves into groups. But I quickly found my answer and carefully chose my spot—halfway between the group of students who identified as white and the group who identified as Asian. I was proud of my creativity, and excited to share my answer.  

So I was shocked when my teacher disciplined me in front of the class, first asking why I hadn’t chosen a group, and then, when I explained that I had chosen a group—half one, and half the other—chastising me for choosing two groups when her survey allowed her to tick only one box.  

Which is when she demanded that I choose between the two.

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Industry Q & A with Alvina Ling

Alvina Ling is the Vice President, Editor-in-Chief at Hachette Book Group/Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

When and where did you start working in publishing, and what was your entry-level position and title?

I started here at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (when we were based in Boston) in August 1999 as an Editorial Assistant. I’ve been with this company ever since, now as Editor-in-Chief!

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The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people.