Welcome! An introduction to Asian Stories Library
Updated: Apr 16
Now that I have over 100 posts on Instagram (@AsianStoriesLibrary), I have noticed that it's difficult to find specific, older posts. To solve this problem, I decided to create a blog to better organize my book recommendations. This way, readers can effortlessly discover books with specific themes or by particular authors and illustrators.
In this inaugural blog post, I want to take this chance to introduce myself and reiterate the mission of Asian Stories Library. I hope this blog will become a platform for discovering and celebrating diverse Asian stories, promoting representation, and advocating for underrepresented Asian voices in the literary world.
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Who am I?
My name is Rebekah Qu. grew up in a small, unbridged island community in Down East Maine, where almost everyone, including me, was white. Growing up, books were my window to the world. I would stay up late into the night, devouring my latest read. I owe my love for books and learning to my mother, librarians, and teachers who instilled in me a passion for education, which eventually led me to become the first in my family to earn a college degree. I hold undergraduate degrees in Business Administration, Economics, Government & Politics, and Software Development, as well as a certificate in East Asian Studies.
My husband is a 1.5 generation Chinese-American, and together, we have a beautiful biracial daughter. We are committed to raising her to be bilingual in English and Mandarin and to take pride in her Asian heritage. Like my mother and the other educators who inspired me, I hope to pass on my love for books and learning to my daughter and inspire her to be curious and eager to explore the world.
What is the mission of Asian Stories Library?
Through Asian Stories Library, I am dedicated to promoting Asian representation in children's literature. I firmly believe that the stories children encounter shape their worldview and their understanding of themselves and others. Unfortunately, data compiled by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, reveals a concerning lack of Asian representation in children's books. In 2019, just 8.7% of children’s books featured Asians as primary characters, while a striking 29.2% featured animals or inanimate objects.
This disparity means that Asian children are more than three times more likely to encounter non-human characters as protagonists in their reading material than characters who look like them. Furthermore, non-Asian children are being deprived of the opportunity to learn about their Asian peers through literature, which can lead to misunderstandings and prejudice.
I believe that representation matters, and that all children should have access to diverse and inclusive stories that accurately reflect the world around them. My goal is to highlight books that celebrate Asian culture and characters, to amplify underrepresented Asian voices, and to inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning in all children.
I don’t believe representation for representation’s sake is enough though. As a white person who studied East Asian history and culture in college, I have no doubt that people who aren’t of Asian descent can can appreciate and celebrate Asian stories. However, the depth of authenticity created by authors and illustrators telling their own stories from lived experience and cultural heritage cannot be replicated. Therefore, I prioritize featuring books written and illustrated by Asian creators. In some cases, I may highlight books written by non-Asian authors if they are respectful, important (such as biographies), and there are no similar books available by Asian authors.
My bookstagram began as a way for me to share my excitement about the wealth of #AsianStories children's books I discovered while preparing for the birth of my daughter. My niche is children's books by Asian authors and illustrators, particularly those from small businesses, mom-authors, and those published through crowdfunding campaigns (like Kickstarter). I showcase bilingual books, #ownvoices stories, and other books with the goal of amplifying Asian voices and promoting greater representation in children's literature.
As a non-Asian person, I am conscious of not centering myself in my platform. Instead, I see myself as an ally, using my platform to amplify the voices of Asian authors and illustrators. My hope is that by promoting Asian representation in home libraries, I can help introduce Asian stories to non-Asian readers and in some way combat racism and ignorance towards people of Asian descent. I strongly believe that books build empathy by allowing us to gain insight into the experiences of others. For readers of Asian descent, I also hope to provide resources that enhance their understanding and appreciation of their cultural heritage and languages.
What can I contribute?
I am a very detail-oriented, organized person who loves books, enjoys research, and has an aptitude for technology.
My previous experience as a research assistant for the Association for Asian Studies gave me an opportunity to develop my organizational and analytical skills, which I hope to leverage by curating themed collections of children's books by Asian authors and illustrators. I understand the frustration of sifting through irrelevant search results when looking for a specific type of book, which is why I want to make it easier for parents, teachers, and other readers to discover diverse and inclusive children's literature. By showcasing books that feature characters and themes from Asian cultures, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive and representative literary landscape.
I have a degree in Software Development and a professional background in web development and software testing, with a focus on user experience. So, I am confident in my ability to create a user-friendly blog. My ability for open-source research and online discovery will allow me to find books that may not be receiving the attention they deserve, and bring them to the forefront for readers to enjoy.
Should a white person be curating Asian stories?
This is a complex and nuanced issue, and I understand the concerns around cultural appropriation and the potential for harm. As a white person curating Asian stories, I am aware of the privilege and responsibility that comes with this role. My intention is not to speak for or over Asian voices, but rather to use my platform to amplify and promote the work of Asian authors and illustrators. I am committed to doing this in a respectful and culturally sensitive way. However, I am always open to feedback and constructive criticism, and I invite those who have concerns about my work to reach out to me so that we can have an open and honest discussion.