Author celebrates Asian pride in children’s book



Between designer outfits, fashion shows and celebrity cameos, you see images and videos of her children. Three young children with colorful outfits, big personalities and lots of love surrounding them are highlights of her Instagram.

What makes sense in life as a fashion editor turned Eva Chen, Director of Instagram Fashion Partnerships and Children’s Book Author. Family is important to Chen, as evidenced by snaps of 7-year-old Ren, 5-year-old Tao and newborn River, whom she shares with husband Tom Bannister, and her parents smiling and laughing alongside their grandchildren.

Families are the connective tissue that makes people who they are, shaping each other through generational constellations, those clusters of light that guide the next era. Chen explores this through Mei’s eyes, with the young girl learning to love herself at the center of “I am golden” (Feiwel & Friends, 40 pp., out Tuesday). Chen insists that who you are and where you come from should not just be tolerated, but celebrated and valued.

“People talk a lot about self-acceptance and self-awareness. And I always felt like for kids, that was such a neutral term, when what we really want kids to do, it’s celebrating self-love and celebrating who they are,” Chen says. .

Chen wants joy to spring from the pages, which feature beautiful illustrations by Sophie Diao representing Mei on her trip. She points to a moment when Mei rides a dragon “feeling uplifted and leaving all that negativity behind to embrace who she is.”

There’s a similar sense of joy in Chen’s earlier books, including “Juno Valentine and the Magic Shoes” “A is for Awesome!” and “Roxy the Last Unisaurus Rex,” but there’s a reflection in his thoughts about self-esteem that sets “Golden” apart.

Eva Chen attends the 2021 CFDA Fashion Awards at Grill Room on November 10, 2021 in New York City.

Self-love is a timely message, especially for Asian American communities across the country who have been profiled, harassed and killed in greater numbers like COVID-19 raged during two years. For Chen, like many others, the onset of the pandemic was a major turning point.

“The first time I heard the term ‘Chinese virus’ and just the fear I felt, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is not going to be good. And of course, within a few weeks, there were hate crimes against Asian seniors in New York and there were a lot of them on the West Coast,” she said.

“I remember calling my mom and dad and saying, ‘It’s happening. Be careful, don’t wait, don’t speak Chinese when you’re on the street, wear a baseball cap or, you know, wear sunglasses.’, like hiding who you are.’ “

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Chen, 42, says that amid her concerns about racism and being targeted, she had “an opportunity to reflect on my culture and being Chinese”. She was also able to slow down as the world slowed down around her and begin to learn more about her parents and their experiences.

“The positive side is that I felt like I was spending more time with my parents and asking them questions about what was the hardest thing about coming here. ‘Who was here? What jobs do you have? Done? Where did you live?’ I think a lot of people have that relationship with their parents, but I feel like we never talked about a lot of those things. Now, thanks to the book, I feel more comfortable doing that. .

Mei learns to love herself for who she is "I am golden," written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Sophie Diao.

the USA TODAY Bestselling Author said “Golden” is “my most personal book because, although I obviously like the others, this one is probably the closest to my family history”.

Part of the book delves into the bullying Mei might experience; Chen says it “definitely brings back that vivid experience of feeling quite isolated because I was one of the few Asians in school.”

She remembers a classmate asking her if she had a pair of Nike sneakers she wore from Chinatown. “They must be fake,” she remembers telling him. The same classmate alluded to Chen “returning to where she came from” and pulling her eyes to the corners to tilt them.

Chen’s childhood experiences persist with her to this day.

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Mei learns to love herself for who she is "I am golden," written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Sophie Diao.

“At first I didn’t tell my parents about it because we didn’t have that kind of a relationship and then also…my parents didn’t have a toolbox of books or TV shows to go to. spin,” Chen said.

Chen wants “I Am Golden” to be part of a toolkit for parents and children: to spark joy, acceptance, and conversation. She cites Sesame Street’s new Asian character and American Girl’s first Chinese-American doll as steps in the right direction for children to see themselves as good enough and worthy of who they are.

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Like other parents of color who speak to their children about their identity early on, Chen discussed with Ren and Tao what “it means to be Chinese, what it means (to them) to be half-Chinese.” The book’s release coincides with Lunar New Year (Chen showed her kids decorating red envelopes to match the Chinese New Year days before the holidays on her Instagram Story, naturally), one of many nods to his legacy.

by Eva Chen "I am golden," illustrated by Sophie Diao, shows vignettes that talk about being Chinese-American, including the spread seen here on food.

Chen and Diao sprinkled “little nuggets” of Chinese culture throughout the book that they “hope people will spy, like jade, even on the food in the spread they eat. Each dish has a personal meaning.” These gems also evoke tradition, and Chen says she was able to “get even closer to my Chinese-American heritage” by thinking about these customs.

“It’s never too late to start. I become aware of (traditions) every day and it’s something I want to keep embracing and evolving,” Chen said.

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