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Asian American Education Initiative 

Please read about our past events in the featured articles in the news: article 1article 2, and article 3

The Asian American Author Presentation Series aims to teach social justice, critical thinking, and empathy through award-winning Asian American children's literature. Books can be "windows" that help readers see and experience the world from the characters' viewpoint, allow readers to relate to and reflect on their own life experiences, and offer an entry point to understand Asian American stories as part of a larger human experience (Bishop, 1990). Through reading Asian American literature, we hope to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all children in our community. To celebrate the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are inviting award-winning Asian American authors to read books and speak to our children (virtually) at schools in the Urbana-Champaign area during the month of May every year. 

If you are a teacher and you are interested in inviting the authors to your classroom, please sign up below.

Sign Up for Author Presentations

Past Author Presentations

The Name Jar is written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi. It tells the story of Unhei who has just immigrated to America from Korea. The Name Jar explores questions about difference, identity, and cultural assimilation. Her books have been acclaimed as "Best of the Best" by the Chicago Public Library, included on the American Library Association Notable Books List, and have received the International Reading Association's Children's Book Award.  

The Name Jar was presented by Yangsook Choi in May 2021 and 2022.

Hello, Universe is a 2017 novel written by Erin Entrada Kelly. The novel is told from the perspectives of four middle school students as one of them becomes trapped in a well. Hello, Universe won the 2018 Newbery Medal. Erin Entrada Kelly is a Filipino-American writer of children's literature. She also received a 2021 Newbery Honor for We Dream of Space, the 2017 Award for Children's Literature from the Asian Pacific Librarians Association for her second novel, The Land of Forgotten Girls, and the 2016 Golden Kite Honor Award for Blackbird Flyamong other honors. She is also the author and illustrator of the Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey series.

Hello, Universe was presented by Erin Entrada Kelly in May 2022.

Bao Phi is a Vietnamese-American spoken word artist, writer, and community activist living in Minnesota. His children's book, A Different Pond, illustrated by graphic memoirist Thi Bui, has received multiple awards including the 2018 Caldecott Honor and the APALA Picture Book Award. A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a fishing trip Bao took with his father when he was a young boy. The story "delivers a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son; and between cultures, old and new."

A Different Pond was presented by Bao Phi in May, 2022.


Debbi Michiko Florence is the author of the chapter books series Jasmine Toguchi (JLG selections, the Amelia Bloomer and CCBC Choices lists, and a Cybils Award winner). The charming chapter book series stars Jasmine Toguchi—a spunky, eight-year-old Japanese-American heroine unafraid to try new things while learning life lessons about family, friendship, and sisterhood along the way.

Jasmine Toguchi was presented by Debbi Michiko Florence in May, 2022. 

Andrea Wang is an acclaimed author of children’s books. Her book Watercress was awarded the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, a New England Book Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. 

Watercress was presented by Andrea Wang in May, 2021.

Grace Lin is an award-winning and NY Times bestselling author/illustrator of picture books, early readers and middle grade novels. The Ugly Vegetables is based on a childhood experience. Grace’s mother grew Chinese vegetables in her garden while all the neighbors grew flowers.

The Ugly Vegetable was presented in May, 2021.

Grace Lin is an award-winning and NY Times bestselling author/illustrator of picture books, early readers and middle grade novels. She was also the only Asian girl (except for her sisters) going to her elementary school in Upstate NY. That experience, good and bad, has influenced her books—including her Newbery Honor WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, her Geisel Honor LING & TING, her National Book Finalist WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER and her Caldecott Honor A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR. In 2022, Grace was awarded the Children’s Literature Legacy Award from the American Library Association. 

WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON was presented in May, 2021.

Susan Tan is the author of the Asian Pacific American Librarian Association Literature Award–winning Cilla Lee-Jenkins series and the Pets Rule! early reader series. She currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards is a middle-grade novel about a girl who must overcome her worries to find the truth behind her town’s urban legend. 
Mike Jung is the author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities and Unidentified Suburban Object. He is a library professional by day, a writer (and ukulele player) by night and was a founding member of #WeNeedDiverseBooks team. The Boys in the Back Row: it’s an unabashed ode to male friendship, because love between boys, platonic or otherwise, is something to celebrate. 
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor winning middle grade novel in verse, Red, White, and Whole. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks.