Anne Sibley O’Brien Immigration Illustration Exhibit
On September 30, in the midst of torrential rains and flash flooding in the city, I still managed to get in from the island to hang an exhibit of illustrations in the Children’s Room of Portland Public Library.
The exhibit, “Picturing New Neighbors,” features selected original artwork from these four books, all of which feature immigrant children:
My stellar intern, Caitlyn Hubbard, made the whole day work; I never would have made it without her. Thanks, Katie!
The exhibit will be up through November, and will culminate with a November 19th reception and workshop, “‘That’s My Story!’ Images of Immigrant Children in Picture Books,” for teachers, librarians, parents and community members.
What Will You Be, Sara Mee? by Kate Aver Avraham, which I illustrated, was published five years ago. It tells the story of a Korean American baby’s first birthday through the eyes of her older brother, Chong.
One of the most charming aspects of a traditional Korean first birthday, or tol, is the toljabee, in which objects are placed in front of the baby and the one chosen is thought to be a predictor of what the child might become.
Illustration © Anne Sibley O’Brien from WHAT WILL YOU BE, SARA MEE?
Yesterday I got to be part of my grandson’s tol. Taemin was splendid in a first birthday outfit that our daughter Yunhee’s godparents, Marsha Greenberg and Steve Schuit, had brought last year from Korea.
When a table of objects was placed on the floor in front of him, Taemin practically ran to pick up the rice spoon – the sign of a chef-to-be.
What fun when an event you’ve illustrated comes to life!
Once again I spent an August week at Camp Sejong, a Korean culture camp in New Jersey, my fifth time as the Creative Writing teacher. It was such a pleasure to be back in this remarkable, multi-age Korean American community of staff, teachers (including a 13-member delegation from Ewha University in Seoul), teen and young adult counselors (including many former campers), and campers from age 7 to 15.
This year the theme was Life Cycles, with a particular focus on the first and 60th birthdays. In writing sessions, we brainstormed about birthdays, birthdays and adoption (about half the campers are adopted; the other half from 2nd-generation Korean American families), and Korean birthdays.
Then we constructed tol go-im – first birthday towers or pillars…
but instead of rice cakes, candy, jujubes or beans, we built the towers with strips of paper in the traditional colors seen in sek dong
, the rainbow stripes typically used for children’s clothing.
Campers chose whatever they wanted to include – significant events, people, trips, things they learned, school, connections to Korea, and other aspects of their lives. Each stripe represented a year and each completed pillar the story of a life.
Some used pictures and symbols as well, and one girl even drew her complete fashion history – including hairstyles – from infancy!
Already looking forward to next year’s camp, with the theme of Contemporary Korean Culture, including K-pop and Korean drama. In writing we’ll be creating man-wha, or comics.
One of my recent picture books, What Will You Be, Sara Mee? by Kate Aver Avraham, is a CCBC Choices 2011 (download here) title, one of “the best children’s and young adult books published in 2010″ in the opinion of the Cooperative Children’s Books Center.
Here’s the first character sketch I did of Sara Mee,
and here’s her brother Chong,
who narrates the story.
A short break from the focus on white conditioning to share some recent happenings in my publishing life:
1. NEW BOOK!
What Will You Be, Sara Mee? by Kate Aver Avraham, was released in February from Charlesbridge. In it, six-year-old Korean-American Chong tells the story of his baby sister’s tol, the traditional celebration of a child’s first birthday.
I got a lot of help with visual details from my friends here in Portland, Won-Bae and Ip-bun Park of Sun Oriental Market, and their son Se-jong and his wife Ji-yun, whose daughter Chae-hee was the model for Sara Mee. Yesterday I took copies of the book to the Parks. Chae-Hee, now three years old, instantly recognized her baby self , and her six-year-old brother Tae-soo clasped the book to his chest, claiming the book as his own.
I’ll be mailing out a copy this week to my friend Noah in Michigan, who was the model for Chong. In June of 2008 I spent a week with his family in Flushing, MI, while presenting at the Korean Culture Camp of Eastern Michigan.
3. Earlier this month, Catherine Anderson,
wonderful writer, poet, mother, teacher, friend and co-explorer of the world of race, whiteness, and multiracial families, who posts at her blog, “Mama C and the Boys,” gave me a fabulous gift – a Beautiful Blogger Award!
I am belatedly completing her challenge to post this. The next part of my challenge is to find other bloggers to award it to. I’m on the lookout.