Hello, friends! Our book today is I Am Golden, written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Sophie Diao, a moving exploration of the Asian American experience and cultural pride.
Told from the perspective of a Chinese-American immigrant couple addressing their daughter, Mei, the narrative begins by noting that the heritage of both China and America are written in Mei’s features and name. Mei’s parents are honest with her about the difficulties of being a child of Chinese-American immigrants; the racism, the othering, the pressure to culturally assimilate, the fact that her parents will often rely on her for translation and navigation through American culture. But they want Mei to know that no matter what challenges she faces, she carries an immeasurable strength within her, one that has the power of her history, her culture, her ancestors, her family, and most of all, herself. Finally, they teach their daughter the word mìng; “It means destiny, Mei. Our destiny was YOU.”
Stunning. Chen’s powerful words and Diao’s exquisite art weave a beautiful narrative that is heartbreakingly honest, deeply empowering, and truly heartwarming. Cuttingly accurate statements on xenophobia – “people will call you different in one breath and then say that we all look the same with the next” – do not shy away from the reality of stereotypes and othering that members of the AAPI community face while also fearlessly pointing out their absurdity. Even the core concept of Mei’s “golden”-ness ties into a description of her skintone; “brushed with gold,” in comparison to demeaning descriptions of AAPI skintones. Diao’s digital illustrations are striking, colorful and fluid, and filled with energy; a top-down tablescape of traditional Chinese foods makes the mouth water, and a depiction of Ming glowing from the center of a blooming lotus is joyful and serene at once. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this one. This one is a rare and beautiful look into the Chinese-American and AAPI experience, and is a must-read. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)