I am immensely honored that Paper Son has won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the picture book category.
That this distinction has been bestowed by the American Library Association fills me with once-in-a-lifetime pride.
My childhood was spent mostly between a cash register and a booth at my parent’s restaurant—my constant companions a stack of library books. On weekends, after some cajoling on my part, my mom would take me to the local library for a re-up and leave me there for hours so I could have a change of scenery.
I’m sure the librarians at Headquarters Library in Jonesboro, Georgia would have preferred not to be used as free childcare. (And I recall some librarian’s attempt at having this conversation with my mom.) But after seeing that all I would do was sit on a bean bag chair and work my way through Nancy Drew, Redwall, and Oz books, they let it slide. Eventually, I would repay their tolerance by helping sort books back to their rightful place on the shelves.
I cannot understate how deeply those days shaped the foundations of my life: Surrounded by books, each a portal out of my humdrum circumstance. Transfixed by words on a page, each sentence a transportive spell. Guided by women who showed only kindness and encouragement to a lonely girl.
Since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else but fill my life with books—working on them, reading them, and writing them. I have the immense privilege of doing that now, every day.
You see, libraries formed the core of who I am. Receiving this recognition from the ALA means the world to me and the child I was who thought the world of her library.
Also, just a huge THANK YOU to the people who made PAPER SON a beautiful reality: The Wong family for entrusting Tyrus’ story to me, wonder-agent Wendi Gu, editor Anne Schwartz, and illustrator Chris Sasaki
for imbuing my words with pure magic!