Newbery and Caldecott Honor Author/Illustrator Grace Lin Speaks Out About Her Work to Lessen Bias

UP TO MY KNEES (2020) | Grace Lin
WHAT WILL FIT? (2020) | Grace Lin
CIRCLE SPHERE! (2020) | Grace Lin
THE LAST MARSHMALLOW (2020) | Grace Lin
DIM SUM FOR EVERYONE (2003) | Grace Lin

A message from Grace Lin, author | Facebook | March 20, 2021

“I’ve hesitated to post this as I didn’t want it to look like a self-serving post. But as my heartbreak over current events have not lessened, I have found myself caring less if people misunderstand my intention.

Because I have been publishing books for 22 years.

Four of Grace Lin’s more than a dozen published books.

For 22 years, I have been trying to show Asians as people. Not as caricatures, not as sidekicks, not as jokes. I took it as my life’s work—often times with resentment, sometimes with honor, but always with deep conviction. From books ranging from gardening to flying dragons, the messaging has always been the same—we are your classmates, we are your friends, we are your families, we are you. Because we are people. We are humans.

The killer was 21 years old.

I know this borders on arrogance and self-absorption, but my first thought was how I had failed. How the books have failed. That while at every book conference and book festival someone proclaims, “Books save lives!” to rapturous applause, the books did not, could not save the 8 people in Atlanta. They did not, could not make the 6 Asian women human to the killer’s eyes.

But the books have never been enough. They are just tools and tools must be used to work. For the books to work, they need people to use them. They need all of you.

And they need you everyday. Not just during Lunar New Year. Not just during AAPI month. Not just after an Anti-Asian Attack.

Because we are human everyday. Somehow, that seems very easy to forget.

You don’t have to use my books. But please use something, anything that reminds your kids, your family and yourself that Asians and ALL those marginalized are humans. And, please, do it everyday.

Thank you for the kind words I have received over the last few days. Thank you for listening. Thank you for seeing me.

But let’s strive for a day when those thanks are not necessary.

I am willing to spend my whole lifetime working for it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Lin is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of picture books, early readers and middle grade novels. Lin’s novels Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Dumpling Days both received Newbery Honors, and her early reader Ling and Ting received the Theodor Geisel Honor. The cover illustration for her novel When the Sea Turned Silver (a National Book Award Finalist) was displayed at the White House, where Lin was recognized as a Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.

Grace Lin at her studio

Many of Lin’s books are about the Asian-American experience because she believes, “Books erase bias, they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal.”

Lin grew up in Upstate New York with her parents and two sisters. While the other sisters became scientists, Grace became an artist. Surprisingly enough, being an artist was not Grace’s first choice. She first dreamed of being a champion ice skater, and drew many pictures of herself twirling and dancing on the ice. Unfortunately, Grace had neither the talent nor coordination to make it to skating stardom. However, the pictures she drew of herself held much promise and quickly became Grace’s career focus.

After attending the Rhode Island School of Design, Grace quickly set out to achieve her dream of creating children’s books. Her first book, THE UGLY VEGETABLES, was published in 1999 and was quickly heralded. As well as being an American Booksellers Association’s “Pick of the List” and a Bank’s Street College Best Books of the Year, THE UGLY VEGETABLES was nominated for the California Young Reader Children’s Choice Award and named a Growing Good Kids Book Award CLASSIC.

Grace followed that success with the publication of over a dozen more books, including DIM SUM FOR EVERYONE! and LISSY’S FRIENDS. Grace’s first children’s novel, THE YEAR OF THE DOG was released to glowing praise in 2006 and nominated to the TX Bluebonnet list, which she followed with THE YEAR OF THE RAT. Her novel WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON was awarded the 2010 Newbery Honor, chosen for Al Roker’s Today Show Kid’s Book Club and was a NY Times Bestseller. Grace’s early reader LING & TING was awarded with the Theodor Geisel Honor in 2011.

As well as occasionally reviewing for the NYTimes, Grace has became an advocate for diversity. She is a commentator for New England Public Radio and created the video essay, “What to do when you realize classic books from your childhood are racist?” for PBSNewHour. Grace also delivered the popular TEDx talk, “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.” Grace continued to voice her opinions on the podcast: kidlitwomen* and currently hosts two podcasts: Book Friends Forever and Kids Ask Authors. She truly believes, “Books erase bias, they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal.”

To that end, when the cover illustration for her novel WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER (a 2016 National Book Award Finalist) was displayed at the White House, Grace, herself, was recognized as a Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling. In 2019, Grace’s picture book “A Big Mooncake For Little Star” was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

Grace lives in Florence, MA with her husband and daughter.

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