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The Carle is proud to present its third online exhibition Asians, Everyday, a virtual picture-book exhibition curated by award-winning author and illustrator Grace Lin.
The exhibition features art from 26 picture books. Each artist contributed a personal statement about their illustration. Lin selected picture books that feature contemporary characters and stories and that depict Asian Americans living their everyday lives, whether eating and cooking together, attending school, or enjoying family gatherings. The exhibition poignantly speaks to the many ways Asian Americans are an integral part of our richly diverse nation.
Lin is an advocate for diversity. Born in the United States to Taiwanese parents, her interest in curating this exhibition is deeply personal. Recently, when her daughter returned to in-person learning, a classmate at lunch exclaimed that the Coronavirus started in China and that they hated Chinese people. Lin said while this is heartbreaking, it is not surprising.
“While it has grown louder and more consistent these last few years, here in the United States the anti-Asian story of hate has been told for a very, very long time. So, for those who believe in equality, justice, and kindness, we need to combat those stories. One way to do this is by replacing those stories of Asians as perpetual foreigners with real stories of Asians who share our common thread of humanity,” said Lin.
The virtual exhibition features many artists who, like Lin, have devoted their careers to increasing diversity in picture books. Melissa Iwai, who wrote and illustrated Dumplings for Lili, writes, “Since illustrating my first book over twenty years ago, it has been my mission to depict children who are largely underrepresented in children’s literature. At a young age, I was very conscious of almost never seeing kids who looked like me or had lives similar to my own depicted in picture books. Fifty years later, the situation is better, but not optimal.”
Illustrator Nabi H. Ali says, “Growing up, I barely saw South Asians represented as anything more than a stereotype in children’s media. When I set out on my path of becoming an illustrator, I knew I wanted to change that.” In Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand, Ali illustrates a story about a South Asian girl who preaches love of all human features. “I also got the opportunity to depict a kind and affirming South Asian family, something that the oft-seen myth of the strict, tiger-parenting Asian household explicitly avoids and obscures,” says Ali.
Other artists draw parallels between Asian and American cultures. Jason Chin selected an illustration from his picture book Watercress for the exhibition: “I wanted the artwork for Watercress to reflect the American and Chinese heritage of the characters in the story, and chose to paint in watercolor because it’s common to both Chinese and Western art.”
Charlene Chua shares a two-page spread from Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao because it spotlights a family making bao together. “Preparing food with family is a special activity that I think many people can relate to, regardless of country or culture,” writes Chua. “I believe common threads like this help remind us that we are not so different from one another.”
Lin previously co-curated the exhibition Now & Then: Contemporary Illustrators and their Childhood Art, and currently serves on The Carle’s board of trustees. Chief Curator Ellen Keiter said the Museum immediately embraced Lin’s proposal for the exhibition. “We welcomed Grace’s proposal on this important topic. Children’s books are a perfect way to build empathy and shatter stereotypes.”
Lin acknowledges the exhibition cannot tell every Asian American story. “There are many wonderful Asian authors and illustrators not included here. There are many important Asian ethnicities that are not represented here. As an author, I know not one book can tell all the stories. I do hope this exhibition gives those who are Asian an affirming mirror and those who are not, an illuminating window.”
Through this exhibition, Lin hopes to combat the alarming rise in anti-Asian sentiment across the United States. “I hope that by seeing the recognizable humanity in all of our lives,” she says, “kids and adults can begin to let go of some of the blame and hate and we can instead connect as familiar friends.”
List of books (alphabetical by illustrator)
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
Lakas and the Manilatown Fish by Anthony D. Robles and illustrated by Carl Angel
Watercress by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin
The Name Jar written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho
Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Dumplings for Lili written and illustrated by Melissa Iwai
Under My Hijab by Hena Kahn and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel
Danbi Leads the School Parade written and illustrated by Anna Kim
Where’s Halmoni? written and illustrated by Julie Kim
Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Violet Kim
I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne and illustrated by Julia Kuo
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung and illustrated by Julie Kwon
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Le
Like a Dandelion written and illustrated by Huy Voun Lee
A Big Bed for Little Snow written and illustrated by Grace Lin
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji by Farhana Zia and illustrated by Ken Min
Our Favorite Day written and illustrated by Joowon Oh
Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala written and illustrated by Meenal Patel
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Drawn Together by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Umbrella written and illustrated by Taro Yashima
The Twins’ Blanket written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Hands Say Love by George Shannon and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
About Grace Lin
Before Grace Lin was an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of picture books, early readers and middle grade novels, she was the only Asian girl (except for her sisters) at her elementary school in upstate New York. That experience, good and bad, has influenced her books—including her Newbery Honor Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, her Geisel Honor Ling & Ting, her National Book Finalist When the Sea Turned to Silver and her Caldecott Honor A Big Mooncake for Little Star. She currently hosts two podcasts: Book Friends Forever and Kids Ask Authors. In 2016, Lin’s art was displayed at the White House and she was recognized by President Obama’s office as a Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.
About the Museum
The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. A leading advocate in its field, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture-book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy. Online offerings include exhibitions, programs, professional development, and book shares.
The late Eric and Barbara Carle co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Carle was the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 43,000-square foot facility has served more than 800,000 visitors, including 50,000 schoolchildren. The Carle houses more than 12,000 objects, including 8,500 permanent collection illustrations. The Carle has three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. Bobbie’s Meadow is an outdoor space that combines art and nature. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and Master’s degree programs in children’s literature with Simmons University. The Carle has created two other online exhibitions: Art in Place: Social Distancing in the Studio and Now & Then Contemporary Illustrators and Their Childhood Heroes.