The luxury of inaction

For a few days this past week, I attended a big conference held at a downtown convention center. Yesterday–Saturday afternoon–a friend and I were entering the building. We heard a woman’s voice, loud and upset.

“What are you doing? Why are you arresting him, what did he do wrong?”

What I saw: Four people in uniform surrounding an African-American man, the woman standing nearby.

“He didn’t do anything! Why are you arresting him?”

In that instant, the news stories of the past several years flashed into my head. Without saying anything to each other, my friend and I moved toward the woman—not aggressively, and not getting in the way of the uniformed people. I just wanted her to know that we were nearby, and watching.

One of the uniformed officers broke away from the others and asked us to stand back. He also told the woman to come inside the building to get her things.

“I’m not leaving him,” she said. “That’s my husband, I’m not leaving him.”

By now we had been joined by at least two or three other people. They were talking to the woman, and to the man in uniform. From what I could gather, the man—now being handcuffed—was a musician, and had been invited to perform at the conference. As he was leaving after his performance, he was detained for not having some kind of permit.

“He was INVITED here!” the woman kept saying. Then she said, “Will someone please film this? I don’t have my phone, my bag is over there—”

And I froze.

I was afraid.

My friend, braver than me, got out her phone and began filming. While she filmed, I helped the woman gather her things, and her husband’s things. He plays the trombone; together, she and I had to figure out how to take it apart to put it in the case.

“I never touch this thing, it’s his,” she said. She was calmer now, and even managed a small, worried smile as we tried to figure out the trombone.

The man was taken away in what looked like a police car. Later I learned that the people in uniform were security for the convention center, not city police officers. The man had been taken to a ‘booking office’ on the grounds.

I also learned that the man had had his trombone case open in front of him while he was playing, and that people were putting money in it. Considered ‘solicitation’, it is apparently forbidden without a permit. I found myself wondering why this was an offense that called for handcuffs. And wondering how things would have been different if the musician had been white. The uniformed officers: one white man, one black woman, two black men.

A few hours later, I ran into one of the other witnesses. She told me that everything had been straightened out, and all charges had been dropped.

Of course I was relieved. But I also confessed to her: “I was afraid. The wife, she asked us to record what was happening, and I froze.”

She tried to comfort me. “I did just the same,” she said. “It wouldn’t have done them any good for us to get arrested, too.”

Maybe. But as a black woman, she was potentially at greater risk than I as an Asian-American would have been. And maybe it had ended up being the most sensible choice for my friend, a blonde Caucasian, to be the one filming.

I was, and am, ashamed that I was afraid. No, that’s not quite right. I’m not ashamed that I was afraid: I’m ashamed that my fear stopped me from reaching for my phone. Why had that happened?

I am grateful to have had the chance to learn this about myself in this way: My fear and my inaction were in the end inconsequential. I was sobered and shaken to realize the extent of my cowardice. I’ve learned, and pondered, and am determined not to let fear stop me again from doing what I think is right. Because my fear at that moment cannot begin to compare with what the musician and his wife must have been feeling.

When the freedoms, safety, and even lives of people are unjustly endangered, inaction due to fear is a luxury that I cannot afford.

As I left the building to catch my flight home, I passed crowds of people entering, to attend the evening’s event–the highlight of the conference.

A presentation by Ta-Nehisi Coates.


The day after tomorrow

As the shock begins to wear off, I’m trying to think, not just feel.

And here’s what I’m thinking. The United States as a nation is changing, from majority white to majority olive/tan-and-darker. It’s inevitable, and no wall or deportation program can stop it.

This election is part of a last gasp. The barbed tail flailing, the frantic claws. The days of white (and mostly male) dominance are slowly coming to an end here, and those who do not wish to see the change have lashed out with all their misdirected strength.

It may well be their last chance: Our young people voted OVERWHELMINGLY for hope, and against fear and hate.

I do not know how long the death throes will last. I know that it may well be a bitter and noxious time.

But the strength forged in united diversity WILL PREVAIL.

Banish despair. Hold each other up. You inspire me.


My round, red, Panasonic transistor radio

At the age of nine, I became a RABID Cubs fan*. My dream was to someday play center field for the Cubs. This, despite the fact that my father claims the first time he took me out to the back yard with a glove and ball, I threw the ball and it ended up BEHIND me. (He has told this story for years. I wish I could check it on Snopes.)

(*Yes, I am now a Mets fan. Don’t judge until you know someone’s story.)

That summer, I rarely missed seeing a game on WGN, Channel 9. (Jack Brickhouse: “Santo-Kessinger-Beckert-Banks, the infield third to first.”) I learned to keep score. I listened to the West Coast games under the bedcovers with the volume turned all the way down (no ear buds back then) on my Panasonic transistor radio (I had the cool-looking round one, remember it?).

When I told my brother about my dream of playing center field, he laughed.

“Girls can’t play in the major leagues,” he said.

I was stunned. In my ardent fandom, I had NEVER NOTICED that none of the ballplayers were women.

This year, the Cubs are going to the World Series. I could not be more thrilled.

And we’re going to elect the first woman POTUS.

Somehow, although it might make no sense to anyone else, the two events feel intimately connected to me.

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A quick post

This week I was honored to speak at the Virginia Association of School Librarians conference in Norfolk. I wanted to share a few of my remarks here:

I hope we can agree that one of the vital functions of books and literature is to offer readers visions of the world we live in. That world is incredibly diverse!—whether you’re talking about the entire planet, or the United States as a nation, or the internet where so many people of all ages spend much of their time these days.

If our classroom and library collections do not offer young readers a wide choice of diverse books, then we are not preparing them for the world they will live in as adults. That applies whatever the demographics of your student population. Everyone– adults included!–needs to learn more about the amazing, colorful, diverse world we live in. We ALL need diverse books.

 

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With Laurie Bolt, president-elect of VAASL.


Three Things

Here is my simple list of action items for anyone who believes in the mission of We Need Diverse Books, and wants to help but isn’t sure how.

#1: Gene Luen Yang is our current National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. His platform is READING WITHOUT WALLS. Take up his challenge–for yourself, AND for the young readers in your life.

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#2: Bookmark these two pages:

READING WHILE WHITE

NPR CODE SWITCH

Make them part of your regular online reading/listening, no matter what your skin color.

#3: BUY BOOKS by diverse authors. Every time you go book shopping, make a point of it. If you can’t buy, REQUEST them at your local library.

Three simple steps. If even half of ‘everyone’ did them, what a movement that would be!

 


FATAL THRONE

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I could not be more excited about this book project! Six female authors, one male author, each writing one of seven linked YA stories, from the individual points of view of . . . HENRY VIII AND HIS SIX WIVES!!!

GENIUS, RIGHT!?? It was author Candace Fleming’s idea, to be published by Schwartz & Wade, Random House Books. The authors?

M.T. Anderson
Jennifer Donnelly
Candace Fleming
Stephanie Hemphill
Deborah Hopkinson
Lisa Sandell
. . . and me!

What an honor to work with these fantastic writers. And what a story–politics and religion and sex and blood and gore and intrigue and jewels and death and more sex, and no wonder it continues to fascinate people five hundred years later.

Besides the excitement inherent in such a brilliant idea and such terrific colleagues, I have another, more personal reason to be joyous here. This seems to me to be a great example of a ‘post-diversity’ project: I’m a POC invited to work on a book that has nothing to do with my ethnicity–while at the same time, it was precisely exploration of my ethnic background which led to my interest in writing historical fiction, which in turn got me this gig.

A baby step at a time…toward a world where there is no danger of the single story. May we all get there together, and soon.


THERE’S STILL TIME

The crowdfunding campaign for the Rabbit hOle project–to build a NATIONAL MUSEUM for children’s books!–has been extended until June 10, so you still have time to JOIN TeamPark! All team members will be entered into a drawing to win fabulous prizes: SIGNED BOOKS or one of five copies of a beautiful print by Grace Lin!

These prizes are SEPARATE from the Rabbit hOle’s campaign perks–they’re EXCLUSIVELY for members of TeamPark!

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–Are you already a member of #TeamPark? If yes, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Will you continue to help? Ask/encourage/badger friends and family to become part of the team! For every new team member you recruit, your name will go into the prize drawing AGAIN, to increase your chances of winning SIGNED BOOKS or the beautiful print above!

Here’s how to join the fun!

  1. Go here: igg.me/at/rabbitholekc
  2. Donate any amount to help build the Rabbit hOle, a national museum of the children’s book (HOW COOL IS THAT!??).
  3. Hit me with a tweet or DM @Linda Sue Park to let me know you’ve joined #TeamPark! OR email jordan@rabbitholekc.com
  4. If you’ve been recruited for #TeamPark by another team member, please tweet or DM me @LindaSuePark after you make your donation, with the name of your recruiter.

 

 

 


RATCHET RATCHET

(Quick reminder: I’m competing against Lemony Snicket and Jon Scieszka to see which of us can get the greatest number of team members donating to the Rabbit hOle project, the plan to create an AMAZING new museum for children’s books in Kansas City. The crowdfunding campaign is HERE.)

GAK. Snicket got a WHOLE BUNCH of new team members yesterday. So it’s time for some major troop-marshalling!

–Did you see my TedX talk? or Grace Lin’s? Grace, award-winning author/illustrator, has generously offered to help with my campaign! Both of our talks focus on the importance of children’s literature, just as the Rabbit hOle does. So if you liked her talk or mine or both, please join the team! Instructions below.

AND…(drum roll, please!) Grace is donating FIVE copies of this gorgeous print as prizes in the random drawing for all #TeamPark members! https://www.etsy.com/listing/60898557/a-book-is-a-garden-proverb-print

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–Are you already a member of #TeamPark? If yes, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Will you continue to help? Ask/encourage/badger friends and family to become part of the team! For every new team member you recruit, your name will go into the prize drawing AGAIN, to increase your chances of winning SIGNED BOOKS or the beautiful print above!

Here’s how to join the fun!

  1. Go here: igg.me/at/rabbitholekc
  2. Donate any amount to help build the Rabbit hOle, a national museum of the children’s book (HOW COOL IS THAT!??).
  3. Hit me with a tweet or DM @Linda Sue Park to let me know you’ve joined #TeamPark! OR email jordan@rabbitholekc.com
  4. If you’ve been recruited for #TeamPark by another team member, please tweet or DM me @LindaSuePark after you make your donation, with the name of your recruiter!

 

 

 

 

 


SCIESZKA & SNICKET: I WILL CRUSH THEM LIKE BUGS

But I need your help to do it! And you’ll be aiding a great cause at the same time.

It’s easy.

  1. Go here: igg.me/at/rabbitholekc
  2. Donate any amount to help build the Rabbit hOle, a national museum of the children’s book (HOW COOL IS THAT!??).
  3. Hit me with a tweet @Linda Sue Park to let me know you’ve joined the team! OR email jordan@rabbitholekc.com

The author with the greatest number of supporters WINS, AND CRUSHES THE OTHER TWO LIKE BUGS.

The losers will pay a penalty of excruciatingly public humiliation, TO BE REVEALED LATER IN THE COMPETITION.

Now, a note about tactics. Sciezska and Snicket have anywhere from twice to FOUR TIMES as many Twitter followers as I do. The playing field is NOT LEVEL.

Therefore, I will be playing dirty.

You have been warned.

NEW RULE: All of ‘my’ contributors will be entered into a drawing. Prizes: SIGNED BOOKS from me!

NEW RULE #2: Jon Chesska’s name must be spelled correctly for his votes to count.

 

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Spring photojournal

I’ve had such an amazing spring, and I yearn to blog about all the events I got to attend… but grandbabies and writing take priority over blogging. Instead, some photos, with thanks to all the wonderful folks who hosted me, and especially to the young readers I had the privilege of meeting.

APRIL: Texas Library Association annual conference, Houston

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I got to participate on a panel moderated by Cynthia Alaniz (left), with Kathi Appelt, Katherine Applegate, Joan Bauer, and Kirby Larson. We had so much fun! Many thanks to HarperCollins for sponsoring my appearance there, especially Abby Ranger and Patty Rosati.

 

SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest Conference, Naperville IL

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…where I got to meet Jennifer Black Reinhardt, illustrator of YAKS YAK! Do we look happy or what!??

 

20160429_142458The fun, hardworking, and attentive members of my Novel Revision workshop.

And something incredible happened at the conference, which I’ve already blogged about here. Publishers Weekly wrote about it, too!

 

MAY: People’s Light Theater, Malvern PA, and Philadelphia area

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Children’s Book World in Haverford hosted me for a presentation and signing. Above, I’m signing a book for author Deb Heiligman’s nephew, with Deb’s brother at left!

 

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People’s Light Theater Company in Malvern were staging a stunning production of A SINGLE SHARD, screenplay by Robert Schenkkan, directed by Seema Sueko. Here, Marcie Bramucci, the theater’s Director of Community Investment, who took care of me during my visit, stands in front of the lobby display. The trip was a busy one, with a very full schedule, and not only did Marcie see to it that everything ran smoothly, she bent over backwards to make sure I had every last thing I needed. THANK YOU, MARCIE!

 

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With some of the cast members: Greg Watanabe (Kang), Jeanne Sakata (Ajima), and Thom Sesma (Min).

 

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With more of the cast and crew.

 

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Backstage: props.

 

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After the performance: talkback with the cast!

 

Shard talkback with LSP May 6 2016

Look at me, sitting between Tree-ear and Crane-man!

 

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Several children’s-book friends came to see an evening performance with me, including David Wiesner, Jen Bryant, and Margo Rabb. A few days later, Matt Phelan (illustrator of XANDER’S PANDA PARTY, and creator of many other books) brought his daughter Nora to a matinee.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful the production is–and it’s playing until May 29! If you’re anywhere nearby, go see it, and tell everyone I said hi!

 

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The schedule of events associated with the play included three library visits. At Philadelphia Free Library, Wyoming branch, I signed books for students who came by bus to hear me speak.

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Showing slides of celadon pottery.

 

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At Chester County Library in Exton, librarian Jeanne Clancy (right) and her staff provided a cake and book giveaways!

 

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At Abington Free Library with librarian Carolyn Dubois. This event was co-sponsored by the Society of Young Korean-Americans…

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…founded by Michael Choe. From left, Ji Hyun An, Michael, and his mom. 🙂

 

Jamestown NY: I spoke at the Robert H. Jackson Center for Social Justice, as part of their Young Readers program, about A LONG WALK TO WATER.

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With the Center’s executive director Susan Murphy (left) and the three winners of the Young Readers program essay contest.

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The Reg Lenna theater in Jamestown, starting to fill up with some of the 1,200 students who came to hear me speak.

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With students outside the theater.

 

Brighton (NY) Memorial Library annual staff & volunteer dinner: I was honored to be the keynote speaker this year.

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With BML teen and children’s staff. My peeps!

 

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With more BML staff members. I LOVE LIBRARIANS!

 

Aurora NY: the Anne Frank Sapling Project annual dinner

Do you know about the Anne Frank Sapling Project? I didn’t before, but now I do, and I’m so glad!

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Thirteen locations throughout the U.S. were chosen to receive a sapling–including Southern Cayuga Central School in rural upstate New York. I was humbled and delighted to speak there, where the local project committee had sponsored an all-community read of A LONG WALK TO WATER.

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I couldn’t think of a better way to finish out my spring travels.