By Ling-Mei Wong
Author Grace Lin just wanted to fit in.
“I was born here and grew up in upstate New York,” she said. “I was the only Asian girl in my school apart from my sisters. … I pretty much rejected all my Asian culture when I was younger.”
Her Taiwanese mother tried to teach her Chinese calligraphy and culture, which Lin refused. So her mother resorted to subterfuge, sneaking Chinese fairytales in for Lin to devour on her own.
Today, Lin has penned and illustrated more than a dozen books, including “Dim Sum for Everyone!” and “The Ugly Vegetables.” Her novel, “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” was awarded the 2010 Newbery Honor and will have its East Coast premiere at the Wheelock Family Theater April 11.
“A lot of people think I write about my books because I know so much about Chinese culture,” Lin said. “My books are actually a way for me to learn about my culture.”
“Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” is described as the Chinese “Wizard of Oz.” A girl, Min Li (“quick witted”) is trying to find the Old Man of the Moon to change her family’s fortune. She encounters mythical dragons and fantastic characters on her journey.
“Each character tells her a story and she doesn’t realize they tie together until the very end,” Lin said. Min Li learns thankfulness is the secret to happiness.
Min Li is portrayed by local thespian Caroline Workman, 14. Workman is the daughter of Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence executive director Linda Chin. Having read the book, Workman was thrilled to audition for the play.
“It’s so cool to see the book come to life,” Workman said. “Min Li stays positive and has a sparkle in her eyes. Instead of looking at the downside, she looks at how she can fix it.”
Financial planner Michael Tow was cast as Min Li’s father Ba, a storyteller who loves his daughter. Two of Tow’s three daughters are also in the play, portraying the Monkey and Village Narrator.
“I’m excited about this role — it ties into Asian culture, but it’s not a stereotypical role,” Tow said. “We were real excited it was coming and we could be together in a book that they love.”
The Chinese Historical Society of New England will host a premiere reception and book signing with Lin at 1 p.m. on April 13, Newton North High School. Tickets are $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers, with details at www.chsne.org. It also will host and sell tickets for productions on April 18 and April 19.
The Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence will host a special event on May 10 with Lin at 1:30 p.m. and a screening at the Wheelock Family Theatre. Tickets are $35, with all funds going toward ATASK’s shelter. For more information, please visit www.atask.org.
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