Paper Son wins the 2021 the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the picture book category!

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!