For this first panel, we met four amazing authors: Minh Le, Siman Nuurali, Bao Phi, and Kao Kalia Yang. I loved hearing about their families’ storytelling traditions and how that led them to writing children’s literature. I feel Yang’s feeling of gratitude for making it so far through this year, and also for being able to hear these authors’ diverse experiences that shaped them and informed their writing later in life.
I loved how Minh Le mentioned how his parents and grandparents “held the keys” to his cultural background through their stories, and how he was inspired by real-life heroes in his family history to create new heroic characters. Siman Nurali spoke of how she was influenced by her family’s storytelling, and she’s really proud that her children today also identify with those stories and know that Kenya is “home.” The generational storytelling continues!
The panelists also related how they were able to write narratives that are true: relevant experiences that kids will see out in the world, including tough topics like racism, grief, poverty, and loss.
“Kids experience the world in a more complicated way than we as adults give them credit for.” – Minh Le
“There are no safety nets for the truth… The ghost of racism haunts [my kids] as it haunts me… Be graceful in the reckoning, but reckoning we must do.” – Kao Kalia Yang
I heard too many awesome stories to relate here; it was wonderful hearing about how generations connect stories, and how those stories still continue on and on.