Our new stretch goal is $2000!
We are Inspiring
is a children’s book about 30 inspirational American women. Imagine scientists, artists, actresses, comedians, judges, Olympians, and more whose contributions inspired many across the United States and the world at large. They are immigrants, undocumented, and some have lived in the U.S. for generations. They were born and raised in Oakland and New York City; studied at UCLA, Yale, and the University of Minnesota; worked at the U.S. Senate, Vogue Magazine, and the Freedom Schools of Harlem. They have been awarded by former President Obama, sung on stage with James Brown, and starred in multi-million dollar films. And...
They’re all ASIAN AMERICAN.
How many Asian American women can you name?
I began this project in August 2018. I'd been browsing through a local used bookstore, casually flipping through pages of colorfully-illustrated children's books. I was particularly satisfied by the growing collection of books about women. Rebel Girls. She Persisted. Bold Women in Black History. A is for Activist. Women in Science. Wow, look at all of these empowering activists, scholars, and artists. These women made a difference in the world.
However, I was looking for a particular kind of woman. I think I found her! Here's an Asian Amer- No, my bad. She's another Asian woman from Asia - Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. Cool...she dope.
BUT WAIT. HOLD UP.
Where are my Asian Americans at? There HAVE to be some famous Asian Americans, right? In one book I found "Maya Lin." In another, I found "Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu." I just looked through hundreds of pages of inspiring women and saw two Asian American women... Something did not add up. That can't be all. So, I asked the bookstore clerk, "Are there any books like this one," I motioned to the epic Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. "Except like.... about Asian Americans?"
"I... don't think so. Have you checked here?" he asked, motioning to the shelf of magical women books. Indeed, I had. This is where my search for a book about Asian American women began.
Next, I went to the Internet and Googled, “Children’s book about Asian American women.”
Results: Maggie's Chopsticks. Dim Sum for Everyone. Bee-bim Bop! Cora Cooks Pancit. HOLD. UP.
"Are there any books staring Asian American girls that DON'T focus on food?"
Festival of Colors. Round is a Mooncake. Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding. Suki's Kimono.
"Or pigeonhole Asian American girls as teachers/tour guides of their ethnic culture?"
I Live in Tokyo? No, no, no.
“Asian AMERICAN women. Asian AMERICAN women in AMERICA," I aggressively typed.
Results: Non-comprehensive articles and blog posts whose lists included Asian women. (That's great, but AGAIN, Asian and Asian American are not the same thing.)
I needed to switch up my searches, so I tried, "Inspiring Pacific Islander American Women."
Results: A list of inaccessible Ethnic Studies ethnographic anthologies featuring studies on API experiences targeted toward ivory tower nerds (aka me). Not quite what I was looking for...
Why was this information so difficult to find?
I am a Filipina American woman who for years grew up reading books about people who did not look like me. I was tired of waiting for someone to represent the powerful, brave, and inspiring Asian American and Pacific Islander women I knew existed but, for a myriad of reasons, whose stories had not been told.
My goal is to prevent the erasure of Asian American history by helping author it. Asian American history is an integral part of American history. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been a part of the North American cultural fabric for centuries. In fact, Filipinos, the first Asians in North America, arrived in Morro Bay as early as October 1587. Why are our stories omitted from much of the American historical literary canon? Why has this persisted for so long? Why does this continue to happen? What can I do about this?
Well, I can write and I can draw.
This is the story of how We Are Inspiring was born.
Let's Learn About Asian American Women Together
I'm tired of stories about food and cultural holidays. These stories are important to Asian American culture, but we are so much more than that.
I want to learn about Vietnamese American women who share their family's refugee stories, Japanese American women who are not silent but scream for justice as activists, and queer women who turn their emotions into poems and songs. I want to read about fearless scholars who broke gender conventions so that I could study law and medicine. I want to see women in all shapes, colors, and sizes because not all Asians looks the same!
These stories are American stories.
While writing and illustrating these 30 stories aboutinspiring American women, I challenged myself to include a breadth and depth of Asian American and Pacific Islander women that seldom gets represented.
I wondered why I couldn't find this kind of book anywhere... I realized it was because I hadn't made it yet. Dear reader, thank you for supporting me in my mission to create the book of American stories that I have wanted to hold since I was child.
I wondered why I couldn't find this kind of book anywhere... I realized it was because I hadn't made it yet.
I hope that women (femme-identifying or non-binary folks) and our allies are inspired by the women whose stories I authored and illustrated. I especially hope that when Asian American women flip through the pages of my children's book, they can see themselves represented, acknowledged, and validated. I hope that they are inspired to chase their dreams by the women who inspired me to chase my own.
About the Artist
Production: I believe in the power of bringing these stories to life in the physical form of a children’s book. I imagine readers (young and old, Asian American and all backgrounds) being able to hold a book that I know wish existed when I was growing up. However, If you’ve ever tried your hand at printing a book, it is not cheap! Most (if not all) funding will go toward printing and distribution costs of We Are Inspiring books and supplementary pieces (bookmarks, stickers).
Education: By sharing these stories through We Are Inspiring, I believe that they will encourage young women (and non-binary folks and boys) to see themselves beyond the stereotypes perpetuated in the American media. The women in this book are of various ethnicities and hometowns. They are from various class backgrounds and occupations. They are undocumented and unafraid, Asian American and artistic, generous and genius. They are loud women and proud women. I am so excited to take a part in sharing these amazing American stories. In addition, by supporting this project, you are directly supporting the integration of Asian American Pacific Islander women’s stories into the K-12 education system. In the future, if these Kickstarter proves that there is a need for this book (beyond myself and my encouraging, loving friends and family), I am hoping to make these books accessible for local public schools across the United States. And in used bookstores so that the sales clerk will be able to say, "Yeah, we do have a book about Asian American women. It's called We Are Inspiring. Let me show you where it is."
Risks and challenges
As y’all may have read, I am a graduate school student meaning I may become quite busy in the upcoming months. I will be balancing school work and working as a teaching assistant during this period. But not to worry! Estimated time of arrival will be just in time for the holiday season/New Years. Worst-case-scenario, these books would make great Valentine's Day gifts! So, sit tight, friend. Your books are on their way to your coffee table, bed, or children’s hands.
In the meantime, check out some preview sketches on my instagram @angeltrazo.
Lots of love,
- (30 days)