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Commentary

Asians Are Humans Every Day, Not Just During Lunar New Year

Author Grace Lin has been writing and illustrating books with Asian characters for 22 years. She says parents must do more than expose their kids to diverse books.
Grace Lin
/
Courtesy of the author
Author Grace Lin has been writing and illustrating books with Asian characters for 22 years. She says parents must do more than expose their kids to diverse books.

For 22 years, I’ve been publishing books with Asian or Asian American characters. That means 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 — oftentimes 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 suspect who investigators say admitted to the shooting spree in Atlanta was 21 years old. My books have been in print all his life.

So even though I know this may border on arrogance, one of my first thoughts when I heard about the mass killing was that I had failed. How books like mine had failed.

That — while at every book conference and book festival someone proclaims, "Books save lives!" to rapturous applause — the books did not and could not save the eight people in Atlanta. They did not and could not humanize the six Asian women enough to stop the killer. 

But I’ve always known that the books were never going to be enough. The books are really just the start. They are tools that acknowledge our differences and begin the conversations that can spark real change. But for books to work this way, it takes people to use them this way. 

Not just during Lunar New Year. Not just during May when it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And not just after an anti-Asian Attack.

Because Asians are human every day. Somehow, that seems very easy to forget.

This is not about my books. I just want you to find something, anything that reminds your kids, your family and yourself that Asians and all marginalized people are humans. Every day.

Commentator Grace Lin, who lives in Florence, Massachusetts, is a best-selling Asian American author and illustrator loved worldwide for her children’s books.

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