[LITERATURE] Linda Sue Park - Author
Spotlight on Linda Sue Park
By Yueska Honda
Linda Sue Park's book 'A Single Shard' won the prestigious 2002
Newbery Medal. Park is the first Asian American to win the award
since the 1928, when Dhan Gopal Mukerji, an Asian Indian, won the
Although she was raised in a suburb of Illinois, 'A Single Shard'
takes place in 12th century Korea, and centers on an orphan and his
developing friendship with a potter.
Tell our readers a little bit about your background and your
experiences growing up in the United States.
My parents came over from Korea in the 1950s. At the time, there were
a few Korean families in the Illinois neighborhood I was raised in,
but nothing like the communities you find now.
My parents figured the best way for their children to succeed was to
be as American as possible, so they raised us speaking only English.
At the same time, we had a lot of Korean culture in the home in terms
of holiday, food and values, and especially in terms of the focus on
Having grown up in the United States, how did you start writing
children's books focusing on ancient Korean culture?
My husband is Irish, so my children are half-Korean, but I didn't
know much about Korean culture. I wanted to learn more about the
culture for them and for myself as well. So I started doing some
research and it turned out to be a wonderful, really fascinating
How important is it for children to read about characters that look
like them, or come from a similar cultural background?
It's important for children to see themselves in the world. One of
the very basic primal needs is the need to belong in the world, and
one way to do that is to see ourselves represented in it - it's an
affirmation that you belong here.
I love the cover of my first book SeeSaw Girl. When I was a little
girl, I would have been so excited if I had seen a book like that on
When you write, are you conscious of the impact your stories may have
for Asian kids, or are you just focusing on what you think will make
I like to think I'm just writing a nice story, but whether I like it
or not, there's a responsibility that comes with what I'm doing.
There are about 5,000 children's book published a year, and last year
about 53 were by Asians or had Asian protagonists. Even in terms of
proportion of population, that's way too little.
But your books go beyond just being about Asian characters - they're
really for everybody.
Right. There are so few Asian protagonists in books now. In that way,
my books are for Asian children. But the books are also educational
about Korean culture - it's a small country and there isn't too much
information out there about it. Any child who likes to read - no
matter what color - will like it.
Do you think there's an increasing demand for books that center on
the Asian-American experience? Not only among children, but for
adults as well.
In the past few years publishers have been seeking out diversity in
general. For Asians in particular, it's the chicken and the egg
thing; the Asian population had to become well established in the
country in order for there to be a real demand for books about their
Now people are talking about this explosion of Asian- American
writers, but it's really a matter of timing. A lot of second- and
third-generation Asian Americans who grew up being fluent in English
are coming of age, and so it's natural that we're just now starting
to see some of them writing books.