One of the things that makes a library a destination for many people is, of course, the books. Many of us have that one author that we love almost everything they write. Last week I went to the iSchool Spencer G. Shaw Lecture at the University of Washington by the author Grace Lin. I am ashamed to say I have not read any of her books, but I feel like I need to now! The lecture was amazing and insightful. Grace Lin is the author of picture books, early readers, and chapter books for young children. One of her most famous works is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a story about Minli, a young girl who goes on an adventure to change her family's fortune. The story incorporates Chinese folklore and mythology.
Grace Lin talked about her journey to embracing the title of 'multicultural' author. Growing up in America in a predominately white neighborhood, Grace Lin often tried to forget about her Chinese culture to fit in. It was later in life, at art school, that Grace Lin decided she needed to take a look back at her Chinese culture. She looked to folktales and folk art from China and let it shape her art. Early on in her career, Grace was told that being 'multicultural' meant that she would not have broad appeal. Now she is an award winning author and illustrator.
Her lecture was particularly interesting to me. As the wife of a Chinese-American man and, some day, the possible mother of American children with Chinese ancestry, it helped me understand that experience. It makes me happy to know that Grace Lin and others are writing books about their culture. It is so important for children from all backgrounds and cultures have stories and characters that they can relate to. It is also important for children to read stories outside their cultural norms. Grace Lin's stories may be multicultural, but they also have broad appeal.