Transnational Authors’ Cultural Backgrounds and Further Reading

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico,
and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

Throughout this past month we have looked at trends in transnational Asian children’s books. Further, we have discussed new transnational authors that expand cross-cultural peer relations in books and give voice to stories beyond traditional folklore. To wrap up the month of October, we present contemporary Korean and Japanese authors with books released in the U.S. These lists include authors that we have mentioned this month and some that we have not. Each name links to the author’s website, where you can find their books, the authors’ cultural backgrounds and other connections.

authors' cultural backgrounds

Katrina Goldsaito, left, is a new Japanese-American author who lived and wrote in Japan. Linda Sue Park, right, is the first Korean-American author to win the Newbery Award.

Transnational Korean Authors and Illustrators
The authors/illustrators listed below share similarities, such as their connection to Korea and Korean culture, yet the authors’ cultural backgrounds vary. Dom Lee has published a wide range of books in the U.S. and Korea for representing diverse populations beyond Korean cultures. Janet Wong is a poet/author for children’s poetry books, and she has been advocating children’s poetry across content area curriculum. Jenny Han is one of few YA authors whose works have been recognized for cross-cultural relationship in the U.S. Sook Nyul Choi was a leading author in the 1990s, and though she hasn’t published recently, her works inspired Linda Sue Park, who is the first Korean-American Newbery Award winner. We didn’t include authors like Hee-Na Baek, whose books have been published other countries in Spanish and French — the U.S. doesn’t have her books yet.

Korean Transnational Authors: Authors whose books are published in two countries in two languages, here Korean and English.
Somin Ahn, Eun-hee Choung, Dom Lee, Ho Baek Lee, Jihyeon Lee, Suzy Lee, Il Sung Na, Bomi Park, Hyewon Yum

Korean-American Authors: A mixed group of America-born author/illustrators and Korean authors who immigrated to the U.S.
Jane Bahk, Sook Ngul Choi, Yangsook Choi, Jenny Han, Yumi Heo, An Na, Linda Sue Park, Janet Wong, Patti Kim

Transnational Japanese Authors and Illustrators
Recently, a growing number of new transnational writers and illustrators of children’s literature debuted their works in the U.S. Their stories are about Japanese and/or Japanese-American people and cultures. The authors’ cultural backgrounds are various, such as Japanese or Americans living in Japan, Japan-born Americans in the U.S., America-born Japanese in Japan, or Japanese in the U.S. Below, we have divided the authors into two categories based on the places they have lived and the places they have written or illustrated stories. Their transnational identities, personal experiences, family and childhood have all influenced their works to a varying degree.

Japanese and Japanese-American Authors in the U.S.: America-born or Japanese authors who immigrated to the U.S.
Kimono Kajikawa, Kathryn Otoshi, Aiko Ikegami, Sunny Seki, Felicia Hoshino

Japanese and Japanese-American Authors in Japan: Japan-born or Japanese-American authors with longtime-residence in Japan.
Christine Mari Inzer, Katrina Goldsaito, Holly Thompson, Rebecca Otowa, Akiko Miyakoshi, Yuriko Yamawaki

By acknowledging authors’ cultural backgrounds and their career timeline, we recognize specific diversity issues. New authors in their early career bring different perspectives of Korean and Japanese cultures with cosmopolitan considerations not necessarily embedded in immigrant stories from the 1990s and early 2000s. After all, cultures are living things that change, transform and hybridize. We suggest children read culturally responsive books by a range of authors in a wide range of genre. This way, young readers experience rich cultural dynamics through many books; culture is not an artifact that one book experience can cover completely.

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