Publishers' Preview: Diverse Books Spotlight: Five Questions for Eva Chen and Sophie Diao

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2022 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Diverse Books Spotlight, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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I Am Golden, learns young Mei as her parents teach her to take pride in her ­Chinese heritage.

1. Eva, how is your children’s experience of being Chinese American most different from yours when you were a kid?

My parents are immigrants, and we spoke only Chinese at home. Also, like lots of kids then, I was bullied by ignorant peers. I remember the exact words they used, and they still sting. My children are growing up, for the most part, in a time of heightened awareness to differences being superpowers.

2. Sophie, what do you wish adult you could say to young you about “always being the new kid at school”?

It was tempting to think, “I’m not going to bother making friends because I’ll probably just move again.” Now, I’d tell myself to meet each new classroom with enthusiasm and openness.

3. Eva, what has publishing for your almost two million Instagram followers taught you about writing for children?

It’s helped me realize the power of books — I get to see real-time reactions! It’s also taught me the importance of taking a stance about current events. The reaction on Instagram to the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes was a reason I wrote this book.

4. Sophie, as a Google Doodler, you know the power of a single image. How does that contrast with creating narrative art over a number of pages?

Over multiple pages, you can have an emotional arc with lows and highs — something that’s harder to capture in the snapshot of a single illustration.

5. Eva, what book, from child- or adulthood, best told you that you were “golden”?

I didn’t find myself in many books. I cobbled together experiences from ­fictional girls — Ramona Quimby, Matilda Wormwood, Hermione Granger, Claudia Kishi, Francie Nolan (points if you know all the references!) — to create the ultimate icon of girl power for myself. I wanted to help children feel the joy of being uniquely themselves.

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Photos: Left: Leo Faria. Right: Jake Hubert.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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