We didn’t plan to release this episode during the time of the Lunar New Year, but luck (of the rabbit?!) was on our side. Our conversation this week is with Grace Lin, author and illustrator of “The Year of the Dog,” “A Big Mooncake for Star,” and “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” among many, many others.
A children's writer and illustrator, Grace has won Newbery and Caldecott honors, and a host of other awards throughout her career. Her work ranges from picture books to middle grade novels, all focusing on Asian-American experiences. Grace explained, “I want to know about Asian culture because it's like I’m always trying to discover a part of myself. Growing up the way that I did, I felt like I looked Asian on the outside, but I never felt Asian on the inside. Creating these books over the years has really changed me … Now, I really feel that I am Asian, like my outside matches my inside.”
For Grace, the value of literature comes from its ability to help us understand other humans and get in touch with our own humanity. But this doesn’t just come from reading. As a writer, she recognizes the change that the artist goes through in the process of creating. The process of writing allowed Grace to understand and feel comfortable with her Asian-American identity, which in turn helped her make content for other young Asian-Americans who struggle like she once did.
Grace is an absolute gem, and I so enjoyed connecting with her. She found her passion early in life, and also found a way to line it up with her values. She has had a prolific career, but somehow still finds time to be an advocate for causes important to her (like fighting book bans) and sharing her perspective through many mediums (including a weekly podcast). Grace also curated a fantastic reading challenge, New Faces, Familiar Places. She challenges us to read various series or trilogies that take place in the same world but include different characters. It’s a super creative and fun challenge, so give it a try!
Listen to the full episode, “Oh, the Humanity: Grace Lin on Art and the Human Experience,” on Apple, Google, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, subscribe, and share with someone who will enjoy it.
P.S. The episode's Beanstack featured librarian is Jenny Lee Ryan, the program coordinator for Farmington Public Library in New Mexico (and former radio host herself!). She shares her best tips for getting readers engaged in their programming.