Hey cHEwY gum gums
I was interviewed by ABC Radio in Canberra yesterday afternoon, and we got to talking about my characters being Asian-Australian. This reminds me of a question that I get asked a lot. Why do I always write about Asians in my books?
The short answer is because I want to. The long answer is because I want to see more Asians represented in kids literature.
From the start of my writing journey, I made the decision to make all my main characters Asian because when I grew up, there weren’t many in the books that I read. When I was pitching Thai-riffic! the only few books I could find with an Asian-Australian main character were Nips XI and Noodle Pie, both written by Ruth Starke.
Over the years, I’ve made my way around Asia, having main characters with backgrounds from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, China and Philippines. I’ve had kids come up to me and say that it’s the first time they’ve seen themselves in my books, which is the best kind of praise.
That’s not to say that I don’t write about non-Asian characters. I have a vast ensemble of characters from all cultures. My settings have always taken place in fictitious suburbs around Western Sydney, and so the schools in my books reflect a multicultural society that I grew up in.
I’m thankful to be an author who has a chance to be a part of the diverse landscape of Aussie kids literature, as well as be an Asian-Australian voice in the arts scene. I do my best to support organisations like CAAP, which is a collective of Asian-Australian artists and performers.
I’m pleased to say that there’s more Asian-Australian characters in books, recently with Candy Wu from Nat Ammore’s The Power of Positive Pranking and Padman O Donnell from Mick Elliott’s Squidge Dibley. When I review books on my Virtual Oliver P YouTube Channel (plugplugplug haha), I always shout out the Asian-Australian characters.
In my upcoming cHEwY creation, Brain Freeze, there are 12 short stories and they all have an Asian-Australian as the main character, including Indian and Vietnam. It’s a real joy to mention family names like Quach or Lai. I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop, because the more diverse characters we read in books, see on screens and hear on stage, the better.