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!


ka_jun said...

Language, first and foremost, language. The literature indicates that first gen speaks the mother tongue, second gen is bilingual, and third gen speaks the new country's language. I'm second gen, and I'll be damned if I let the language disappear on my watch.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh! I just received the Mas Arai series for my birthday!! (tomorrow) I am so excited about this book.

Well, what I want to pass down is a sense that our family is Japanese no matter how much we "look" it.

naechstehaltestelle said...

One of the traditions we try to pass down, as a mixed race family living in Europe, is cooking Chinese food together as a family. Even though ingredients aren't always easy to come across, we take one night out of the week to only have Chinese food.

b.q. said...

Such a co-winki-dink that you posted this blog about the exceptional author, Naomi Hirahara. I recently wrote to Naomi about:
(1)The Mas Arai mysteries (had to tell her how Arai-san reminded me of my own Kibbe Dad!), &
(2)Asking her if she knew of any links to Sansei Moms' blogs. Kindly, Naomi referred me to Rice Daddies & a few other blogs. I do think RD is a great find. So, as a Sansei Mom, with Hapa kids, passing on any & all aspects of our culture is always a happy task. We have Samurai blood in our veins, & my 4 Girls have true warrior spirits, & love all things Japanese. My Grandkids will follow the same path. Pass it on...never forget. Now, I'm looking forward to exploring more of Naomi's books, & can't wait for the next Mas Arai mystery! And, although I can't seem to find a widely used Sansei Mom's blog, I think I'll keep visiting RD.
Arigato, & Gambare!

Anonymous said...

a tradition we keep alive in my small (and divorced) family is the passing of recipes from one generation to the next. not only is food yummy, but it's a simple way to share culture. mixing green onions, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and _secret family ingredients_ into the marinade for bulgogi allows us to slow down, contemplate, and talk. many a conversation was discussed with my mother and many a topic is discussed with mine now. =)

Asianmommy said...

We don't have any unique traditions, but the things we do together as a family are important to me to pass on: having dinner together almost every night, going on family vacations at least once a year, having a big Thanksgiving dinner, Xmas dinner, and birthday dinner with the extended family every year. For Chinese New Year, we'll eat Chinese food and give out red envelopes with money.

papa2hapa said...

That's great to have a new book for that age group. I haven't seen many lately, and especially in big bookstores.

Superha said...

how wonderful for you to have someone like Naomi champion your entry into journalism. the book sounds like a great read!

i'd like to pass on the tradition of visiting relatives. in my family, i am the only one who regularly visits my grandpa (and up until 2006, my grandma). i hope that my kids will not only obligatorily visit their grandparents and great-grandparents, but they'll want to visit them.

thisislarry said...

As a hungry asian man, I loved reading the comments above about passing on food traditions.

I would love to pass on the tradition of authentic family-style chinese food: foods made by the immigrant generations in the tradition of the mother country, dishes that you'd only find at a restaurant if you read the Chinese-language portion.

Both my mom's mom and my own dad are great cooks in this tradition. But I never remember seeing either crack open a recipe book, so there's no formula to pass down. When I ask my dad for his recipe, even as he's making a dish, he finds it hard to explain what he's doing.

We once made passable Shanghai egg rolls like grandma's -huge, fat, greasy, crispy, delicious things, but they weren't quite the same.

Anonymous said...

This book looks great, and I will definitely be checking out the Mas Arai series for my classroom library. Thanks for posting this.

One tradition that I hope we are able to pass on to our children is a love of reading!

Mama Nabi said...

(I'm not even playing since SuperHa has thrown her entry in the hat - do you know she WINS every freaking contest?)

One tradition I would like to pass on is the kind of friendships my parents had in which we called all of my mother's friends "imo" (aunt) and we'd all get together for New Year's eve (or whatever) and do one huge food and sleep over fest. Our lives were truly communal.