APEX Express

APEX Express – 12.22.2022 – Children’s Books at East Wind Bookstore with Ko Kim

A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.

This episode highlights a wonderful hybrid book club event from AACRE, Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality a collective of Progressive Asian organizations that APEX is a part of. It was hosted at the East Wind Bookstore in Berkeley, CA. Ko Kim of “We are the Gems” joined us in a conversation about books people enjoyed reading growing up and later Innosanto Nagara is interviewed by Miko Lee. 💖✨💖📚📙📘📗📕💖✨💖

This book club event was so sweet and so lovely, and admittedly was very eye-opening for me as someone who has quote unquote graduated from children’s books, but more about that later. We came up with a list of books people enjoyed reading growing up!
AACRE Thursdays is monthly radio show featuring an organization from the AACRE: Asian American for Civil Rights and Equality. AACRE Thursdays premiers every third Thursday of the month at 7pm. Find more APEX Express Shows here.
APEX Express is a weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.

Miko’s Favorite AAPI Children’s Books (live from East Wind Books in Berkeley) With author Ko Kim

All books written and illustrated by AAPI authors/artists unless noted

Ko Kim

Ko Kim’s Book We are Gems attached is the watermarked PDF only for the AACRE community.
Board Books

Counting on Community 

Red is a Dragon: A Book of Colors


Picture Books

It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way biography on artist Gyo and the impact of the Japanese American incarceration during WWII

Drawn Together. A boy and his grandfather draw and talk story. Deals with intergenerational drama and imagination. Check out a lesson plan for this book I helped develop with Agency By Design in Oakland

Juna’s Jar Juna goes on adventures and collects things. Good STEAM book. Check out this lesson plan for this book by Agency By Design in Oakland

Dad Bakes -Formerly incarcerated Cambodian dad bakes with his daughter

The Paper Kingdom – Janitor parents take their son to work at night and he imagines a kingdom. 

A Friend for Henry – Focused on Henry, a young boy with autism

The Ugly Vegetables – Chinese family grows Chinese vegetables and daughter is embarrassed and longs for the neighbors flowers, until mom makes soup that everyone longs for.

Whoever You Are – Mem Fox’s beautiful book about our diverse world (non AAPI writer, but beautiful book with great message)

The Paper Crane – A paper crane transforms a town (non AAPI writer, but beautiful book with great message)

The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination – a young woman, who is going blind reimagines the NY subway


Positive Body Image

Eyes That Kiss the Corners – a girl learns to love her Asian eyes

Eyes that Speak to the Stars – a boy learns to love his Asian eyes

Happy to Be Nappy – a child learn to appreciate her black hair

Laxmi’s Mooch – a girl learns to appreciate her body hair (mustache)



First Laugh–Welcome, Baby!  Indigenous writers share Navajo story about baby’s first laughter ceremony.

Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America picture book about protests

Bread, Bread, Bread, Families, Houses and Homes  White writer Anne Morris photo compilations showcase commonalities around the world. 

We March African American writer Shane Evans picture book about 1963 March on Washington

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness White writer talks about privileged. This is the book for your white friends kids who want to use a book to spark a family conversation about racism.
Audience Recommendations of Children’s Books 
Book Recommendations with Links

Coffee Rabbit Snowdrop Lost by Birkjaer — https://enchantedlion.com/all-books/coffee-rabbit-snowdrop-lost

Julian is Mermaid by Jessica Love — https://jesslove.format.com/julian-is-a-mermaid

Dragon Hoops by Gene Yang   — https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626720794/dragonhoops

Little One or We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp — https://www.orcabook.com/We-Sang-You-Home
In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo — https://janekuo.com/book/in-the-beautiful-country/
Rob Liu Trujillo — http://work.robdontstop.com/
Who Turned on the Sky by Marielle Atanacio —  https://www.bymatanacio.com/
Juna and Appa by Jane Park  — https://www.leeandlow.com/books/juna-and-appa
A map into the World  — https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/17915
All these below you can buy at East Wind Bookstore!
Lunchtime with Samnang 
Our Little Kitchen by Tamaki  
A Place Where Sunflowers Grow 
When the Cousins Came by 
Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma 
A Different Pond by Thi Bui 
Places to buy your books
https://www.asiabookcenter.com/  aka East Wind Bookstore 
Transcript: AACRE Children’s Book Club

[00:00:00] Swati: Good evening everyone, and happy Thursday. This is Swati Rayasam, your very special guest editor for tonight’s episode of APEX Express. Tonight we’re going to listen in on a wonderful hybrid book club event from AACRE, Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality a collective of Progressive Asian organizations that APEX is a part of.

[00:00:55] Swati: This book Club event was so sweet and so lovely, and [00:01:00] admittedly was very eye-opening for me as someone who has quote unquote graduated from children’s books, but more about that later. I wanted to also flag for listeners that because this was a hybrid event, there are some weird bumps and pops as a result of the recording that impact the audio quality just a bit. Hopefully it’s not too distracting, but whatever you may not be able to fully hear, we’ve tried our best to capture in either the transcript or the show notes.

[00:01:29] Swati: Now, without further ado, I’ll pass you along to Miko over in Children’s Book Landia, AKA East Wind Books in Berkeley. Stay locked in! 

[00:01:43] Miko Lee: We are thrilled to be here and every time we talk about getting a book, of course where you go to buy that book is here in Berkeley at East Wind Books or online. So we are thrilled to see you all and as some of you know, initially today [00:02:00] was gonna be with Innosanto Nagara and I sent stuff out on Ino and then just, we had this whole last minute mix up. We’re gonna showcase some of his books, but instead, B was amazing to recommend Ko Kim. And then I learned about Ko’s book, which was just so exciting. So we’re gonna start off just with Ko reading through the book and having you all ask questions of Ko, and then Ko and I are gonna talk about our favorite AAPI children’s books so that you all can get your gift ons for the holidays and for baby stuff that’s coming up.

[00:02:33] Miko Lee: There’s so many. When I was growing up, I was longing for books that represented our community and now there are so many that represent our intersectionality, our diversity, our specific communities. So there are so many things that we will share with you soon.

[00:02:51] Miko Lee: But first, I wanna take a moment to just introduce Ko. We are so happy that she joined us last minute. She worked with two amazing illustrators, Christine [00:03:00] Yoon and Andrew Hem and co grew up 10 minutes from the US Mexico border and like so many of us just felt invisible in school. She didn’t see herself in textbooks and in bookshelves or anywhere. And that isolation motivated her to become an educator, a public school teacher in title one schools. So she got the traditional education with a masters at Stanford, but keeping it real in the community with low income students showcasing what progressive education can be about. And I’m gonna now throw it to Ko. Thank you Ko, so much for joining us.

[00:03:37] Ko Kim: Wow. Thank you Miko, for that introduction. I wanna carry you everywhere I go, and just have you introduce me. Cuz, that was such a beautifully done one. And I just wanna say thank you everyone for the honor of being here. I love community. I love learning in community. I really want this to be a learning space, so before we begin, it sounds like from the audience, I heard a lot of folks saying they like picture books. They’re looking [00:04:00] for more resources, they have nieces and nephews in their lives or a baby on the way.

[00:04:05] Ko Kim: So I wanted to share a quick resource. I’m sure a lot of you follow Bookstagrammers on Instagram. There is a whole ecosystem of children’s book Instagrammers. Some of them are Berkeley native slash assistant principal Shuli who runs Asian Lit for Kids.

[00:04:21] Ko Kim: And then there’s also my story books who’s based in Southern California. Just a little heads up there. 

[00:04:27] Ko Kim: So as Miko mentioned, I created a book with Christine Yoon and Andrew Hem called We Are Gems: Healing From Anti-Asian Microaggressions Through Self Love and Solidarity. What a title. Christine Yoon is by the way, an ER doctor who’s also an artist, Andrew Hem started off as a street artist and now his work is seen globally and his murals are in over, I believe 10 countries. 


[00:04:50] Ko Kim: Andrew identifies as Cambodian American. Christine and I identify as Korean American, and I think context is important here because I think stories in our own voices are really important.


[00:04:59] Ko Kim: We are Gems shimmering with wisdom handed down from our Asian and Asian American elders. You may face cuts and scrapes called microaggressions, but like those before you, your inner luster will blaze if placed in shared liberation. Shared liberation is solidarity with our Black and Indigenous neighbors against systemic racism, lost traditions and behaviors that harm people with African and Indigenous roots from classrooms to courtrooms, only through solidarity will we glisten.

[00:05:32] Ko Kim: So when people ask you where are you really from? Reply that you are at home as long as you hold sacred the air, water, soil, animals and plants. Reply that you are at home when you honor Indigenous elders. Then ask in return, how are we taking care of all that has life? When Indigenous youth and elders resist polluting pipes, how do we respond?

[00:05:56] Ko Kim: Our liberation is bound to the life and dignity of Indigenous [00:06:00] peoples. When they advise you to speak up, tell them to listen closely, our voices have been roaring for generations. Then ask, how intently do you listen to the hopes and dreams of Black activists leaders? For seven decades, Grace Lee Bogs rallied for fair wages and housing alongside Black community organizers [unclear] introduced civil disobedience to the Highlander Folk School, helping Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. prepare for the fight for freedom. Our liberation is tied to Black joy. When people try to commend you with, you are unlike the others. Reply that you’re not straining yourself toward the dull cast of saying this and tell them, I am blooming as myself under the light of the divine and the glow of our grandmothers, our liberation is self love.

[00:06:49] Ko Kim: Thank you so much.

[00:06:51] Miko Lee: So thank you Ko for sharing your new book with us. I wanna open it up to see if anybody has any questions for [00:07:00] Ko And while you’re thinking about those questions, I wanna just ask Ko to tell about what inspired you to create this work.

[00:07:06] Ko Kim: Yeah, two things. One, I’m an auntie to many nieces and nephews, and it pained me to not see our voices represented on the bookshelves. Public school teacher as well, former public school teacher and it really pained me cuz I would see my students experiencing microaggressions, but it’d be hard to process that with them. Lastly 2020 during shelter in place a man holding a tray of sushi started to say all the racial slurs at me at a grocery store and came so close to my face, I felt the spit on my cheek. And I was like, oh, great, I’m gonna get COVID and verbally assaulted today. And when that happened, there were children around who witnessed that, and the educator in me was like, in pain. Made me wonder, okay, here’s this episodic explosive event, how are caregivers and explain that to their children and then the other thought I have [00:08:00] had was what about the everyday racism that Asian American face? Right? How are we helping caregivers, teachers, parents talk about everyday anti-Asian racism?

[00:08:11] Miko Lee: I just wanna point out that Ko also has a presentation that she does in schools. So if you know teachers that are interested in that, she has a whole presentation, reads some of the book and then breaks down who is Grace Lee Boggs, what is the background. So it’s really helpful. And also talking about not just the times we are in right now with the microaggressions that our community are facing, but who are our solidarity leaders historically and who are people that are working in the community now. So does anybody else have a question for Ko, the author in the space?

[00:08:44] Paige: Hi, Ko, thanks for reading your story, and I’m really sorry that a person assaulted you verbally. 

[00:08:50] Paige: I, I was looking at the title and wondering if there was any association with the TV show where they’re like all gems and then they like sing [00:09:00] songs. Stephen Universe. 

[00:09:00] Ko Kim: I’m just gonna lie and be like, yes. I, I planned that . No, there isn’t, but I actually pulled a lot of my teacher educator friends. To think about how could we self love our and love our Asian Am AAPI children? And that’s what I came up with. But, great question, Paige. 

[00:09:23] Miko Lee: And Ko, you did a non-traditional method for publishing. Can you share a little bit about that and why you chose that route? 

[00:09:30] Ko Kim: Yeah, I would love to share that cuz I do know there’s someone in the audience who talked about possibly writing a children’s book of their own.

[00:09:37] Ko Kim: So I think we use the tools we’re most familiar with, and I’m really used to reaching out to mutual aid, through my community. I’m sure this is something that everyone knows a lot of public school teachers fund their own libraries, fund their own field trips, right? And so I often reached out to my community to help fund those activities, resources , and I had no connection to the publishing world. [00:10:00] So I did this unconventional way and I made sure to recognize the folks in my community that made this book possible. If you look at the very back, their names are listed on the Kickstarter. I also, maybe I was like creeping on fans, people that I really like, but I DMed a bunch of authors on Instagram and asked them for some advice. And Innosanto Nagara has also been very gracious in that process. I have no idea if he remembers that I DMed him, but he gave me some really good tips. He himself started off as a Kickstarter, as you know, and his book was picked up by

[00:10:33] Ko Kim: Seven Story Press. 

[00:10:36] Jasmine: Thanks. I’m curious, Ko if you’ve read this book with your students and your nibbling, how have the kids received it? 

[00:10:46] Ko Kim: It’s really interesting. I thought only middle grades or like upper elementary children would be interested in this, but I actually presented this to a bunch of high schoolers in Hayward and there was a huge response from them. They loved [00:11:00] it. I think we do this false age designation where we’re like, oh, by the time you’re 18 you don’t like pictures. Which is not true, right? Like if the look at the popularity of TikTok, it’s such, such a visual medium, right? People rely on visuals and I think art is actually a great activist tool and way of being. And so, I’ve seen K through 12, a lot of warmth about the images. I had one Jamaican American teacher email me and say, these things happen to me all the time and I brush them aside, and this book helped me heal. I had another teacher in the audience write me that they went to therapy after the book reading, which I think is a great next step. I’m all about healing ourselves. Thanks for that question, Jasmine.

[00:11:49] Miko Lee: Thank you. Anybody else with questions for Ko? 

[00:11:52] Paige: I have another question related to the topic, we were reading the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead in college my [00:12:00] freshman year. And I remember someone asked in class like, how early is it to talk about these things? Like kind of how you’re talking about the age of what you had imagined, the children reading the book. And my teacher was like, I don’t think sixth grade is that early for this book. And that book it was really, it’s quite violent , so I was just, yeah. How were you thinking about that when you were writing this book? Can you say more about thinking about the violence, about introducing that to children? 

[00:12:29] Ko Kim: Yeah, for sure. I did try really hard to be age appropriate, if you notice. I intentionally focused on microaggressions and not the explosive physical violence just cause I know our children, they can’t handle things, but it has to be done in a way that’s scaffolded. There’s that piece of it, but I also wanna cite, a really well known Instagram Spanish educator, she goes by the woke Spanish teacher. She co-wrote an academic article with a college professor in education. [00:13:00] It’s called The Myth of Teaching Social Justice to Elementary School Students. And it kinda debunks some of the ideas that our children cannot handle these experiences because it’s fact of the matter is they are experiencing these racialized moments and they’re turning to adults to make sense of this, or turning to each other to make sense. Right? And it feels weird to just neglect that and wish them good luck versus addressing it and centering their lived experiences. 

[00:13:28] Miko Lee: The other person I’d shout out in that vein is that woke kindergarten, and that’s an amazing educator who’s introduces all these topics with kindergarten students and recognizing that the world we live in, you have to, because that’s the only way that we can create children that understand a greater sense of justice in the world. They do such amazing work, check out their website and they’ve done teach-ins and. 

[00:13:55] Miko Lee: Other questions for Author Ko Kim?

[00:13:57] Ko Kim: Bring it. Everyone. Just give me the questions.[00:14:00] 

[00:14:02] Tran: Hey Ko, this is Tran! How are you? 

[00:14:04] Ko Kim: Oh my gosh. Can I just take a moment to thank you for being such a model to me? When I was at UCLA? I was such an undergrad. I was such a poop head and you really helped me understand, solidarity.

[00:14:14] Tran: Oh, thank you. Yeah. Small world that we went to college together and now you’re a children’s book author. That’s amazing. so I’m actually a mom to a toddler, and so of course making sure that I have a library of books that he can see himself, in and relate to, right. And not just like Asian American, but other like BIPOC books as well. And I actually didn’t know about this book until this event, so I’m really glad, that y’all are hosting those events. So now I know about it and added to my collection, but I was curious, Ko do you have, other ideas for books that you wanna do in the future? Are you planning on doing more books? Cause I’d love to hear if you are. 

[00:14:55] Ko Kim: Yes. Oh my gosh. I do wanna create an ethnic study series for children. [00:15:00] I’ve been toying with the idea of debunking the American Dream myth, just trying to figure out how to do that in a way that’s accessible to young readers. Another one I’ve been toying with is the idea of how do we talk about the anti-Blackness that does exist in the Asian American community, even though we do have a long history and legacy of solidarity with, Black folks. I’ve been toying with those and have been drafting. Thank you Tran.

[00:15:24] Miko Lee: Exciting coming soon, Ko Kim’s latest work. Yay.

[00:15:28] Swati: You are tuned in to APEX express at 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 KPFB in Berkeley. And [email protected]. Coming up is Ka BJ or Puzzle by Diskarte Namin from the album Kultural Guerillas. [00:16:00] [00:17:00] [00:18:00] [00:19:00] [00:20:00] [00:21:00] 

[00:21:45] Swati: That was Ka BJ by Diskarte Namin from the album Kultural Guerillas. And now. Back to the children’s book club with Miko

[00:21:57] Miko Lee: We can start talking about some of me and Ko’s [00:22:00] favorite books that you all can have access to. I wanna first talk about who we talked about in the very first place, who was a mentor and was supposed to be here today. Innosanto’s work A is for Activist, people often ask me, what children’s books I get, I as a few of you mentioned love children’s books. I personally try to never keep adult books because I read ’em and I pass ’em on to other people or I’m a big library person, but the only books I buy all the time are children’s books because I like the art, the vibe, what it’s about and my go to little kids, like when somebody first has a baby, are these books, A is for Activist and Counting on Community. And I like them because they’re board books, which kids can chew on, but they’re also like teaching their alphabet books. But they’re teaching. Our values about activism, about community, about movement, about growth, and about where we are in our world. The other thing I wanted to mention is the other Ino book for [00:23:00] older kids, to the question about, when do you start introducing social justice concepts? You start as early as possible. And with my own kids, you start when they’re babies, you start teaching sign language. So you’re talking about different access to learning and understanding. But then as we know, people grow and they get more sophisticated and they want more information. So actually this is one of, Ino’s more recent books. It’s called The Wedding Portrait the under title is the Story of a Photograph and Why we Sometimes Break the Rules, and this would be good for like fourth graders because it breaks down how critical it is for us to take action. So it talks about from the Dakota pipeline to nuclear weapons to the farm workers boycott and it breaks it down in a way that’s accessible and understandable and really brings it home for older kids that want a little bit more information. So I will follow up with all these books linked [00:24:00] and how you can buy them along with a bunch of others that we might not talk about, because literally I came in here 45 minutes ago and just pulled things off the shelf that were interesting. But I have a whole list of other go-tos. Ko, What are some of your favorites? Or anybody here? What are some of your, like right when somebody’s gonna have a baby, books that we give people? What are your go-tos?

[00:24:21] Ko Kim: Yeah, I would love to share some, but I would love to hear from the folks first. 

[00:24:25] Miko Lee: Anybody have some go to children’s books that they just love getting every time? 

[00:24:31] Jasmine: I bought the book Julian is a Mermaid. It’s a really beautiful book about this little kid and it’s kind of magical and like just exploring gender in different expansive ways. 

[00:24:42] Miko Lee: Thanks Jasmine for sharing that , I really like the artwork on that too.

[00:24:47] Ko Kim: I wanna say everyone likes all categories of books. I understand that. And if you so happen to wanna focus on that topic of gender identity, sexual orientation, there’s actually a really cool mobile children’s Book Bus. [00:25:00] Maybe you’ve heard of them. It’s called Out and About and they’re based in the Bay Area and they have the most beautiful lavender school bus full of books.

[00:25:09] Tori: I just read a picture book called Coffee Rabbit, Snow Drop Lost, I think it’s Danish, perhaps it’s in translation. But it’s about dementia and the relationship between a grandchild and grandparents. And it like made me cry in just a couple of minutes that it took to read it, which I wasn’t expecting. It was very powerful. 

[00:25:29] Miko Lee: I’m not familiar with that book. I love it when books break things down in a way that helps to bring an issue to light. 

[00:25:39] Paige: I also read this in college. I only read two children’s book as a child, and one of them is actually my favorite The Giving Tree. When I was little I was like, why am I so sad reading this book? It’s so sweet and this tree loves this little boy. And then it felt like when I read that book, it reminded me of my relationship with my parents, like, why do my parents love me so much? [00:26:00] And then, the second book I actually read in college was His Own Wear by June Jordan, it’s so beautiful. I love June Jordan. So I would definitely get that for your babies.

[00:26:11] Miko Lee: Anybody else wanna share some?

[00:26:14] Tracy: I’ll just share some thematic books that I can’t remember the names of them. But as a child since I grew up in San Francisco I got exposed to a lot of books around Chinese folklore about the moon festival and like where the moon festival came from, and the woman who ended up in the moon and like the moon goddess. And it’s like the shape of a rabbit. So I really loved thematically those kinds of books that taught me about my culture, but through like children’s books, but then in terms of an actual book name, I don’t know what range we’re doing, but because I read a lot of graphic novels, I really loved everything Gene Yang has done, like American Born Chinese. And his latest book is Hoop Dreams and it’s about him being a teacher in Oakland at a private high school. And I love, love, [00:27:00] love, everything because it breaks down a difficult topic. So the one about him being a teacher in Oakland was about the different students who are on a basketball team there and their backgrounds. You learn about each of the students, whether they’re Black, Asian, or Arab, learn about their specific kind of stories and the ups and downs they have and how like basketball kinda brings them together.


[00:27:25] Miko Lee: I’m so glad. Gene I love him. A local person. And there actually, as some of you might know, making a whole TV series based on ABC and the Monkey King thing. So I, I really appreciate his work. There’s a ton of graphic novelists we could talk about that I also adore, so we could go down that road. Ko what about you? 

[00:27:46] Ko Kim: Yeah, I just wanna thank everyone. I’m learning a couple new title. So there’s a book that was published this year by Julia Kuo it’s called Let’s Do Everything and Nothing. Maybe you’re familiar with this book.[00:28:00] I love it shows the intimacy and affection between a mother and a daughter in each page. And the illustrations are stunning. I never knew burnt orange and navy blue can make me cry but it made me cry in this book for sure and then I know folks are familiar with this book from 2018, Drawn Together. I love it because just like Julia Cole’s book, it talks about the affection between family members, but this one kind of centers a common grief that a lot of AAPI families have where there’s a generational language, cultural difference between grandparents and their grandchildren. It talks about bridging that gap.

[00:28:36] Miko Lee: Can I add to that one? So I love that book and I actually, um, built a curriculum on that book, which I’m sending to you, and it’s linked and I did it with an organization in Oakland called Agency by Design and During the Pandemic, we put together kits for all Title One School Kids in Oakland that included that book and then all the art supplies you could to make on it because it’s about imagination and bringing imagination alive.

[00:28:59] Ko Kim: [00:29:00] Miko That’s, that’s amazing. How can I get my hand on a kit? 

[00:29:05] Miko Lee: I don’t, I don’t know if they’re remaking the kits right now, but you could get your hands on the curriculum and I will say we intentionally made the kits very accessible. So basically even if you didn’t have the kit, you could pull it from things at home or have free access. whenever I’m making an arts inclusive kit, I try and make it with high quality supplies, but then also just things you can get from your house. So it makes it more accessible to everybody. 

[00:29:30] Ko Kim: Great to know. And then I have two other titles 

[00:29:33] Ko Kim: I’m so glad I was recommending ABC American Born Chinese. This book breaks down what does it mean to acclimate versus assimilate to American culture, right? And that’s a huge heavy topic for adults alike. And in fact, Minh Le the author and illustrator of that book he just posted on Instagram under the campaign of Books Save Lives how reading this book in college really helped him stay afloat.

[00:29:57] Ko Kim: And then the last middle grade [00:30:00] recommendation I have is called, In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo this came out in June, 2022. She’s a local Bay Area author and artist actually and each chapter is pithy and painfully beautiful it digs into the richer life of an Asian female protagonist in Southern California. It was very healing. And in talking to Jane she was talking about how this book was supposed meant to also be healing for the caregivers reading the book as well. So I couldn’t put this book down. I finished it in one sitting.

[00:30:31] Kenny: So I got this as a gift from my newborn coming in it’s called Hush and it’s a very simple book, it goes through different animals and just the different sounds that other languages make to represent those animals. And I think it’s just really fun to go through that and learn all the different noises that they make. And it’s a story about a mom who’s just telling all of these animals to be quiet cuz the baby is sleeping just something that I feel like is cool to [00:31:00] introduce to my son since he’s gonna be half Thai. 

[00:31:02] Miko Lee: I wanted to throw out some more artist based ones because I think one of the things is sometimes we just get it. For me, I feel like having raised two artists and realizing the importance of art and life, bringing that into our young people is so critical and I love how Drawn Together does that in terms of inter generations. And really talking about intergenerational trauma. There is an another book about an artist, it’s about Gyo Fujikawa, who is an amazing artist, and it’s called, It Began With a Page and it outlines what is in an artist’s imagination and how they create things, how they use and bring the world alive. And there’s another one called The Sound of Colors, A Journey of the Imagination by Jimmy Liao and it is about a blind woman and it’s the colors that she sees while she’s blind and how she navigates through the world. And [00:32:00] it’s just such a mix. It’s so beautiful. The other is a lovely book about an artist, a kid, whose parents work as janitors in San Francisco and they’re low income workers. And because they don’t have childcare, they take their kid with them and they’re Asian American and the kid uses their imagination while their parents are working. It’s just such a good book talking about imagination and labor. Do you have some more? Should I keep going or does anybody wanna throw some out here?

[00:32:30] Ko Kim: I wanna shout out a longtime author illustrator named Rob he’s one of the organizers of the sixth annual Children’s Social Justice book Fair. 

[00:32:37] Miko Lee: He’s also works with Janine Youngblood on this, collaborative that is around trying to publish BIPOC voices, but it’s very, very small, they don’t have like huge budgets. There are a lot of children’s books that have curriculum that go with them. So I don’t know if some of you’re interested in that, especially during our time of, COVID-y time when people have had to shelter in [00:33:00] place and stay home. Sometimes having activity books for single kids are really great. 

[00:33:04] Miko Lee: This is one that’s about Filipino mythology and culture, Who Turned on the Sky, and it comes with this whole coloring and activity book. The book actually has a whole series of different, Filipino mythology and culture, and I think Tracy was talking about that earlier about how we grow up learning some of these things around culture. So that’s one that actually comes with a curriculum. And then this other one, a really sweet one. Called Juna and Appa which is a Korean girl, and it’s about her and her father. And it has magical realism in it. And it’s again about emotions and intergenerational work. And this also has a curriculum. This was another project I did with Agency by Design that comes with a whole series of questions that young people can do for doing interviews with their elders. Even if you can’t write, it’s how do you draw an interview process? 

[00:33:57] Tracy: Ko you mentioned earlier about this [00:34:00] idea of, we should talk about race as early as possible with kids, but, as educator scaffolding is important, I would literally love to hear your ideas of ways we can scaffold learning. I’ll give you an example, I have a bunch of children’s books that I gave to my sister to give to her kids. And then she took out three of ’em and was like, these are not appropriate for the kids. And I was like, oh, what do you mean by not appropriate? And I didn’t get into it, but I was like, she’s actually a math teacher, so she also understands scaffolding. so I’m really interested in your ideas of scaffolding and what that means to introduce material at the right level. 

[00:34:39] Ko Kim: Yeah that’s a great question cause I think sometimes the work of Social Justice, I tend to leave out the joy of social justice work sometimes. Cause I get so serious and bogged down. I forget that social justice work, it means wellness for me, wellness for us. Wellness for all of us. So you’re right, it has to be age appropriate. Teaching for Justice has really great lesson plans and [00:35:00] they pair books. It goes by grade level. And then as you get to higher grade levels people’s history, you know, the Howard Zinn open resource lesson plans also have a great one. I think it, to your point, it’s really important to introduce a topic where folks are at. Cause that’s also true for adults, right? Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re ready for that topic either. There’s a lot of pre-work and scaffolding that has to happen regardless of our age and reading skill. Yeah. Did that help answer your question, Tracy? 

[00:35:32] Tracy: Yeah. Thanks for the resource. I think that like some of the principles you’re sharing is like meet people where they’re at and I used to be an environmental educator and my framework I use with kids and adults is appreciation, education, action. So it’s like no one’s gonna wanna take action on something that they don’t appreciate first. So once you feel the joy, like you said, then you learn more about it. Also, you don’t wanna learn about anything you don’t really like. So it’s like you appreciate it, you like [00:36:00] it, you bring joy, then you learn more and then there’ll be those like desire to learn.

[00:36:04] Tracy: Then you actually wanna take action. It’s really hard to get people to take action if they don’t really appreciate or understand. So you’re reminding me that is a framework, but, the meeting people where they’re at is if they’re already past appreciation, then maybe they’re ready for an education or action book.

[00:36:21] Miko Lee: And the only thing I would add to both of your great words is partly part of our work is to just show representation and to show different types of AAPI voices in this context. For instance, this is a lovely book called, a Map Into the World, and it’s not, you know, Political, but it’s about a Hmong girl and how she feels and how she walks through the world. And then there’s another book that I was just introduced to, which is, Incarcerated Dad. I have it in my stacks of books around here, but it’s a dad who is Cambodian and he’s [00:37:00] incarcerated and it doesn’t make a big deal about his incarceration. How great is that? It’s about a dad who bakes, but the dad was formerly incarcerated. So just to show this representation is also a political act, right? We are saying that there are many different types of people within our community. Our community is broad. They come from different places, they have different experiences. So that doesn’t have to be overly like we are being political , but it’s really saying, look, our community is diverse.

[00:37:30] Miko Lee: On the same vein I have stacks of children’s books around me by the way that I put into categories. So I was going like, food is such an easy fit in for people because, we’re looking within the network about narrative power, right? And there’s all this research that, what’s the number one thing people think of with Asian people? They think of food. Okay? Some people think that is such a drag. Why is it just around food? Why is it on Christmas? You know, everybody’s eating at the Chinese restaurants, right? But there’s a way to use that to our [00:38:00] advantage. It can be an in for people to understand culture. And so there are tons of books that are just about food and about culture.

[00:38:10] Paige: I wanna just mention Magic Fish. I read all the recent children’s books that I know in the last three years, or like the last three to five years. That book is so pretty. Like the art is so emotional.

[00:38:23] Miko Lee: Yes. Beautiful. Lovely book. We haven’t been talking enough about the graphic novels, so I love this. This is such an amazing book. 

[00:38:33] Miko Lee: This author, Grace Lynn has a bunch of books. Both picture books and board books. This one’s called Dim Sum for Everyone, it’s really cute. The artwork is quite adorable. She actually has another one that I love that’s called The Ugly Vegetables, and it is about how her family grows traditional Chinese vegetables in her neighborhood and the kid hates it because everybody else grows flowers. And then at the end of [00:39:00] the season, the mom cooks the most amazing bitter Melon Soup, and all the neighbors smell the food and they all come and they wanna have the food. And so the whole neighborhood has celebration together over food and they bring flowers. So again, it’s using food as a road in. There’s also these great books about cultures coming together and making food together that are just titled by like bread or rice and all the different people around the world that eat bread and rice in the ways in which they do that. This one it’s called Lunchtime with Samnang, and it’s about learning, imagination, exploration, and about this kid’s favorite Cambodian dishes as he hears tales from his grandfather.

[00:39:43] Miko Lee: I think back to Tracy’s original question around, how do you introduce hard topics, the first thing I was saying was representation, which I think is really critical. And then I think the other part is introducing some kind of like soft more deeper threads. [00:40:00] And so this is one that actually talks about a Rohingya, which are the oppressed minority peoples in China. And it’s about a kid and his love of this bird. And so you could look at this as this allegory, right? About the oppression of peoples. Or you could read it as a boy and his bird. So you could take it multiple ways and have as in depth conversations as you want to have. But it really depends on who’s the reader, right? And what are they reading with it? And there’s a few more that are like this. There’s a really good one. There’s a few good ones about the Japanese, internment that I think, helped to tell that story. Like this one, A Place Where Sunflowers Grow. And it’s really sweet and the art is quite lovely and it just tells about the Japanese incarceration, through a lens of a young girl. And I will say, what I find remarkable about this is there’s a lot of books about the Japanese incarceration, a lot of children’s books. [00:41:00] Almost all of them are about a boy or a male’s perspective. Boys play baseball, boys go fishing, boys do this. So this is specifically about a girl and what she goes through and the lens that she leaves the world. I will say to you all, that I am incredibly biased. I raised two daughters and because I felt like the world is always introducing them to male writers and particularly white male writers that the only books I ever, ever read to them were written by BIPOC women, some men, but usually BIPOC women. and so I think it’s also about the intentionality when you’re picking children’s book out about what you want to be able to share with your young people. 

[00:41:44] Miko Lee: Any other questions or thoughts? Oh, let me share one more one that I just saw, which was so fun. I love this one because this is an intersectional one and it’s about a Japanese American and family, but their cousin is African American [00:42:00] and it’s about when our cousins come. And so it has the family. And there this author has written a bunch like this I have them all at home. They’re all about growing up in the inner city. And it’s really this Blasian experience. What is it like to be Blasian and to be living in the inner city? So I think that’s really fun. And what do we have to teach each other about our different cultures and how are we creating a new kind of Blasian culture? 

[00:42:26] Miko Lee: While we have a two more min, few more that’s left is, many folks know about Yoyo Ma and his amazing work and how he does this work playing at the borders. The author Johanna Ho, who wrote it, and she’s written a lot of other lovely books. But there’s a great breakdown too, and if you wanted to do this with your young person, you could also play that actual music and see some of the real videos. So there’s a way of reading the book, but then taking it to the next level and really showing with your young people how a book can push you off into additional learning.

[00:42:57] Miko Lee: This one Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is [00:43:00] another about body affirmation. You know, a lot of us grow up with like slanting eyes or those stereotypes. And this is about just appreciating your body. Loving your body. 

[00:43:09] Ko Kim: And Johanna Ho has a male version of that one. Eyes stare into the sky, I think. Cause I think it’s different, right? For how that topic is addressed by gender.

[00:43:21] Paige: Jasmine, you were gonna say something? 

[00:43:25] Jasmine: Something I’m curious about, and maybe we’ll need to write the book for, but a book for kids who are mixed white and Asian, around understanding their white privilege specifically, yeah. 

[00:43:39] Miko Lee: Ooh, that would be good. Jasmine. There was a bunch of books with half white kids, but nothing, I haven’t seen anything. Ko have you seen anything about white privilege? Jasmine? There you go. There’s your opening. Take it, write it. 

[00:43:55] Ko Kim: I’m here for a jasmine. I would love to see that. [00:44:00] 

[00:44:00] Miko Lee: Love that. thank you all so much. You know, last book club we talked about Thi Bui’s book and I just wanted to point out Thi’s Children’s book, A different Pond. This is a amazing, Caldecott honor book, which is like the best that you can get in Children’s book Landia. And it is just a really beautiful. It was written by a different author, but Tui illustrated it and is really about a boy and his dad and, their relationship. Tui has two more children’s books, one actually that she wrote with her son and, another one with the author of the Sympathizer Viet Thanh and his son and they co-wrote them. Okay. We have one minute left. Thank you so much everybody for joining us. Thank you Ko Kim and all of you for joining us today for our AACRE Book Club on children’s books. Thank you all. Have a great rest of your day and a lovely weekend. 

[00:44:52] Swati: Hey folks, Swati here. Miko was so bummed about not being able to have Innosanto Nagara come [00:45:00] to the children’s book club but lucky enough she and Inno were able to sit down for a bonus interview! So we’re going to play that for you now.

[00:45:09]  Miko Lee: Welcome Innosanto Nagara to APEX Express.

[00:45:12] Miko Lee: We had an AACRE book club event and I was talking about your brilliant books. As I was saying that my go-to gifts for people that I have bought many time is A is for activists and C is for community. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started writing those?

[00:45:33] Innosanto: Thank you so much. Well I wrote a as for activist because I wanted to have the book that I wanted to read to my child. You know, I live in this community, cosent community and my son was the youngest of eight to be born into our community and I’d been reading children’s books to children for quite a while. And as you know, when you have kids, you read these books to them [00:46:00] often over and over and over again. And some of those books you love reading over and over and over again. And sometimes, not so much , but that’s what they want, so you do it. But, when my own kid was born, I realized I was gonna be reading all these books to my kid over and over and over and over again, and I wanted to have the book that I wanted to read to my kid over and over and over again. So I wrote A is for Activist . 

[00:46:22] Miko Lee: And that was your first book? 

[00:46:24] Innosanto: Yes. I had no, aspirations towards becoming a children’s book author at that point, my idea was I was just gonna write this to share with my kid, and once I had written it and I was illustrating it, I thought, well, maybe you’ll print out, Maybe a dozen or maybe even a hundred and get them out as presents to friends and community members. And I found out that it turns out to do a proper board book, you couldn’t only print, a couple hundred. I had to actually print a couple thousand. And so I went into this whole process of trying [00:47:00] to figure out how to finance it and, I had this idea that it was gonna be a five year project and I was borrowing money from friends and family that I would pay back over time and I would put it on a credit card if at the end of the five years it didn’t pay off.

[00:47:14] Innosanto: But as it turns out, I underestimated how many other people wanted a book just like this. And it took off on its own. And, the rest is history. 

[00:47:22] Miko Lee: So you self-published A is for Activist? 

[00:47:24] Innosanto: Yeah. The first time around I self-published it. I had two pallets of books in my living room, in our community living room and every morning I was packing up books to drop off at the post office and every evening I was getting all the labels printed and all this stuff.

[00:47:41] Innosanto: So it became a bit of a second job. 

[00:47:45] Innosanto: What then happened was after we sold it out, all the books, I had to decide whether I was gonna reprint them myself and keep on doing this. Or if there would be a publisher that wanted to take it on. And I think at that point it was actually 3000 books were sold. I thought that was good proof of [00:48:00] concept and a lot of the bookstores were saying, yeah, you should approach this publisher or that publisher, they’ll be really happy to publish it a lot of people want this book.

[00:48:08] Innosanto: But as it turns out, at the time, self-publishing was seen as the kiss of death for books and no publishers would want to take on a book that had already been self-published. but that’s changed since then and one of the publishing companies that changed that as Seven Stories press, they had published, What Makes A Baby by Corey Silverberg, which was originally self-published. And they were realizing that the fact that something was self-published did not make it something that they couldn’t produce and distribute more broadly. And so they actually took on A is for Activist as well. And all my books have been published by them ever since.

[00:48:45] Miko Lee: That is so interesting. Almost like filmmakers and TV shows that have come off of social media accounts it’s just changing the industry in a way. 

[00:48:54] Innosanto: Yeah, I think there’s been some experiences where the industry is opening its mind a little bit. [00:49:00] Publishing has always been a hard to break into industry with a lot of gatekeepers that represent particular demographics and what they think makes a good book. And I think, one of the positive things that’s come out of people being able to do things like self-publish and Put your work out in the world without going through those gatekeepers, is that we’re discovering that there’s actually a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of really good things that have people are producing that perhaps those experts have somehow, missed.

[00:49:37] Innosanto: And I think that’s been the case in all kinds of media and music as well. So some people like, Maya Christina Gonzalez, who has been working on this field for a long time. She is the author of numerous books on multiculturalism and Gender, and she’s pretty much decided to really promote self-publishing to try to fill the gap [00:50:00] of the missing number of books by and for people of color in America.

[00:50:08] Miko Lee: Who’s that? 

[00:50:09] Innosanto: Maya Christina Gonzalez. OG has been doing it for a long time. 

[00:50:12] Miko Lee: Love it. So I also think it’s amazing that you’ve stayed with the same publisher all of these years and your latest book. The Wedding Portrait, I loved discovering that and one of the things we were talking about at the book club is at what age and how do you start to talk with kids about difficult topics? And I really think the wedding portrait really delves into that. Can you share with our audience what the book is about and what inspired you to create it?

[00:50:42] Innosanto: Yeah, the wedding portrait. Is essentially about direct action and civil disobedience. And why sometimes to make change and pretty much all the time to make change. It requires breaking the rules. And for kids that can be a complicated Topic because they’re being told [00:51:00] to follow the rules all the time.

[00:51:01] Innosanto: And so much of schooling and so much of life is learning how to play by the rules. And yet to make change, we have to be able to identify the times and places when we break the rules. And so that, that book, it came out a few years back right when trump was elected, so we were all expecting that there would be a lot of rule breaking that was gonna have to happen on our side. And I guess to answer your question as to when, it’s gonna be different for different kids depending on what their experience is and what their life situation is. But, the main question here is who is talking to kids about difficult subjects, right? They will be talking about difficult subjects amongst themselves in a schoolyard. They’re gonna be seeing things on tv, they’re gonna be talking to other adults, teachers, and so on. And so the question of how do you approach difficult subjects with [00:52:00] kids, it’s really a question of who do you want to have had those conversations with them first and through these processes, through the times that we’re living in. For me I think it’s when they start having questions and when they start wanting to have these conversations, there’s really not a time that’s too early to be able to address their concerns and question.

[00:52:22] Miko Lee: Thanks. So talk to me about your latest book. 

[00:52:24] Innosanto: Since the wedding portrait there’s been a few I did a middle grade book called M is for Movement, which is set in Indonesia. The way that I talk about my books is, A is for Activist is about the issues, counting on community is about how we live. my night in the planetarium, is about art and resistance and colonialism, and of course I say they’re about these, but those are sort of the underlying themes. But, My night in the planetarium is about a kid. Me, it’s a true story about how growing up under the dictatorship in Indonesia and an experience that I had,[00:53:00] the wedding portrait is about direct action civil disobedience. So it’s about tactics and it stems from a personal experience when my partner, I got married, we went and did a direct action civil disobedience action, and there’s a photograph of that but the broader context of the book is these vignettes about the different types of direct action and civil disobedience and tactics that have been used throughout the history of social justice movements. M is for Movement is kind of like bringing all those things together. And that one’s actually fiction, but it’s about overthrowing the government for children. And that’s a middle grade chapter book. And then after that I did, Oh all the things we’re for, which is very dear to my heart because it’s a lot of these other books are about direct actions civil disobedience, protests, the things that we’re fighting against. But I think it’s really important to also talk about the things that we’re for and the solutions and [00:54:00] the better world that we can envision in terms of democracy, in terms of human rights, in terms of environmental justice. And I feel like we have lots of solutions, but we tend to focus on the problems. And it’s important to have a vision of the possibilities in order to be able to be motivated to fight for change. And then the last book, I didn’t write it, but I illustrated it was written by my friend, Mona Damluji, and it’s called Together. And that’s also board book format. And it’s a bit of a poem about, You’ll have to read it, but, the theme that I think comes up a lot when we’re talking to children about social change is the idea of collective action. But she does it in a way that, that I found really exciting because there’s a lot of really good stories about people coming together to make change. But she does it in a way that is, poetic and accessible.

[00:54:55] Miko Lee: Very exciting. I have M is for movement right by my side here, and I really appreciate you [00:55:00] going into middle school, which I think was a new venture for you, right? To write for middle school age? 

[00:55:06] Innosanto: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, all my books have followed the age of my kids, I basically write for him.

[00:55:13] Miko Lee: Does that mean you’re gonna be working on a high school book coming soon?

[00:55:16] Innosanto: That’s always a possibility. 

[00:55:19] Miko Lee: I also appreciate oh, the things we are for that you’re talking about the irresistible future because it’s hard we get bogged down in the problems without mm-hmm. imagining the beautiful future. So thank you for that. 

[00:55:32] Innosanto: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. And you know, I do believe in protest and confronting injustice, and so it’s not an either or, but I do think that we do need both especially for those of us who’ve been in this fight for a long time, I think having the vision is important as well as having the willingness to fight against the problem.

[00:55:52] Miko Lee: Absolutely. It’s a yes and 

[00:55:54] Innosanto: yeah. Yeah. 

[00:55:55] Miko Lee: Thank you so much for spending some time chatting with me. I always sure look [00:56:00] forward to hearing your voice and I so appreciate your art and your contributions. Thank you, Inno. 

[00:56:05] Innosanto: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:56:07] Swati: Thank you so much to Miko for holding this amazing AACRE book club event. the children’s book hour. Thank you to Kim Ko for subbing in last minute and being completely lovely. And thank you to, Innosanto Nagara who came in for a surprise interview. I loved being able to hear about children’s books that impacted everyone, children’s books that they love, and children’s books that they still hope to write.

[00:56:33] Swati: I absolutely agree that you know, no matter how old you are, you are never too old for a picture book, especially if it has a good message. There were of course, a ton of books mentioned in the show today, and even more that weren’t mentioned. We’ll drop a full list into the show notes with links, so please feel free to go to kpfa.org/program/apex-express to check [00:57:00] that out. And of course, as always, we hope that you buy small and local for your nibbling and yourself.

[00:57:06] Swati: Finally, thank you so, so much to East Wind Books now and for always for co-hosting these events with AACRE and allowing Miko a chance to get lost in your shelves and emerge with these treasures. We really hope that you enjoyed these recommendations and strongly encourage you to share your own recommendations with us. 

[00:57:25]  Miko Lee: Please check out our website, kpfa.org backslash program, backslash apex express to find out more about the show tonight and to find out how you can take direct action. We thank all of you listeners out there. Keep resisting, keep organizing, keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Miko Lee Jalena Keane-Lee and Paige Chung and special editing by Swati Rayasam. Thank you so much to the KPFA staff for their support have a great night.



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Mondo GrossoIntermezzo SunNext WaveSME - Sony Music Direct (Japan) Inc.
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Asian CrisisShimautaAsian CrisisAsian Crisis
BonoboFlutterFlutterMERLIN - Ninja Tune
LedisiAlrightLost And FoundUniversal Music