Wednesday, August 13, 2008
New Asian American Tween Novel "1001 Cranes" Out Now (Win an Autographed Copy!)
When I was a senior in high school, o so many years ago, I submitted a short story, set in a WWII Japanese American concentration camp, to a contest being run by LA's longstanding bilingual JA daily newspaper, the Rafu Shimpo. Like many of my generation, my exposure to the paper was via my grandmother's subscription, her copies being handed off to my parents, and then to me, every week or so, bundled up in grocery store plastic bags. When, to my surprise, I won the contest, the editor of the English-language section asked me if I'd be interested in writing an occasional column as part of their perennial quest to connect with younger readers. [Which, of course, now that I'm in the newspaper business, I know is a quest not limited to the ethnic press. Heh.] Honored by the request, I wrote an erratic series of navel-gazing columns over the next two years, looking at stuff like mixed-race identity, the evolution of community, and going off to college from a self-absorbed and self-described "hapa yonsei perspective." (It was called, wait for it—"In The Mix," natch.) If it'd happened today, I'd have been just another teenaged blogger with an audience of 1, but back then, pre-World Wide Web, an editor saw something in a kid who wanted to write, and took a chance on him. And the stuff she let me write about—race, identity, community—is the stuff I'm still writing about, 16 years later. The editor's name was Naomi Hirahara.
In the time since I met her, Naomi left journalism to tackle full-time her dream, to write novels. Naomi is now the award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series, featuring an LA-area JA gardener (like both her father and my grandfather) turned sleuth. And now, I'm proud to announce the publication this week of her first novel for middle-grade readers, 1001 Cranes (Delacorte Press for Young Readers).
The book follows 12-year-old Angie Kato, a Bay Area girl forced to spend the summer at her grandparents' flower shop in Gardena to avoid her parents' impending divorce. We follow her journey of growth and self-awareness as she learns to fold the titular origami wedding displays that her family's shop sells [we have ours hanging in our living room!]. I can't wait to put a copy of this on The Pumpkin's "for future reading" shelf.
Naomi's kicking off a whole bunch of SoCal readings with this coming Saturday's Japanese American National Museum's Summer Family Festival, part of the opening weekend of LA's Little Tokyo's historic Nisei Week festival. If you're in the LA area this Saturday, I highly recommend you check it out.
Now, to the contest! Naomi's been kind enough to give Rice Daddies an autographed copy of 1001 Cranes to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is, by midnight PDT on Saturday, August 16, write in a comment on this post about one tradition—familial, cultural, whatever—you want to pass down to your kids, and why. The winner will be chosen at random (probably, if one time makes a tradition, by The Pumpkin pulling a slip of paper out of a rice cooker), but you gotta write a comment to enter.
And finally, congrats, and thanks, to Naomi! Yay, more diverse literature for kids! Go get your copy now!