Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Father's Stories

My Father’s Stories

Don Ha (1932-2015)

The thing I will always remember the most about my father is what a wonderful storyteller he was. He had a story for everything and there was always a message. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always meaningful.

When I was little, I once came home from school all beat up and bruised. And my Dad asked me what happened. I said some other kid called me a chink and beat me up. My Dad looked at me and said, “let me tell you a story.”

“Once there was a widow who was bringing food home to her children when she ran into a tiger who said “give me some of your food and I won’t eat you.” So the woman did that. But the tiger kept following and he kept saying ‘give me some of your food and I won’t eat you. So she kept giving the tiger all her food until finally she had no more food. And the tiger ate her. Your bully is the tiger, and if you don’t fight back then he will never stop.”

"But Dad! I don't know how to fight!"

And he said, “If someone hits you once, you hit them back 10 times harder!”

Maybe this was not such a good advice because after that my parents kept getting phone calls from school. I was always in the principal’s office for fighting. But my Dad never yelled at me for that. He would be angry and punish me if I got a B on a test, but never for fighting. 

Until one day I got into a fight with big Maria. She was very big. Too big.  And I got beat up badly. And my Dad said. “Hmmm, I forgot to tell you the rest of that tiger story. You see, after the tiger ate up the widow, he dressed in her clothing and went to her house to eat up her children. But the children saw the tiger’s tail and they ran up the tree, and the tiger tried to climb the tree, so the children prayed for help and then a rope came down from Heaven. Then they climbed into the sky to become the sun and moon.”

I was a little bit confused about what this had to do with big Maria until my Dad said, “Sometimes you have to run away.”

My Dad was a very smart man. He believed deeply in the importance of education. He graduated from Keio University in Tokyo Japan and was studying for his PhD at Georgia Tech. He almost completed it but with a young family to support he ended up having to take a job offer in New York instead.

New York City is such a tough place especially during the 1970s. Working in corporate America is hard when you are an immigrant. My Dad would tell me so many stories about how hard it was to be an Asian person trying to succeed in America. He would remind me that we have to work ten times harder, be ten times smarter in order to succeed. And even then, sometimes it is just not enough. Because my Dad was the casualty of corporate racism, instead of going back into the business world, he became a social worker and worked for the rights of Korean Americans in NYC. He fought for the rights of those who couldn't fight for themselves. It is because of my Dad and his sense of moral justice that I became a lawyer.

My Dad loved his adopted country. He truly believed in America and the American Dream. Even when faced with the worst, he would always look for the best. The silver lining, the moral, the lesson to learn.

My Dad understood that being both Korean and American would be hard at times for his children. He didn’t want his children to forget their Korean side. So he shared all of his stories about growing up in Korea. He told us about a world so very different from our own experience. About war and hunger and running away at a young age to escape the communist recruiters. These stories reminded us who we are and where we come from. A reminder of our heritage. It was my father’s stories that made me rediscover my pride and love of who I am - a proud Korean American.

My father was also a great writer. He would write every single day. Pen and paper. Everything handwritten. He published 3 books in Korea and many many articles for several different Korean newspapers. He also became a columnist for the Korea Times. He wrote about so many things from social injustices that happened in this country that he loved, to teaching Korean immigrants the modern day “slang” of the times. He was not only a passionate write, he was a prolific one. He wrote so much. I was always so curious to read what he wrote, but I cannot read Korean very well. So I would sit and try really hard to read his articles. He would laugh and tell me a story.

 “Once there was a man who did not know how to read. He was ashamed of it so he would pretend he could read by always carrying a book and staring intently at the pages and muttering something under his breath. One day, a scholarly man watched him curiously. He was very interested to know what this man was reading so seriously. So he stood very close and he heard him say – the white part is paper and the black part is ink, the white part is paper and the black part is ink.”

Because he knew how hard it was to get a book publishing deal in the US, he was so proud and happy when I got a 3 book deal from HarperCollins. When I was writing my books, he was so supportive of me. When I needed research on Korean history for my books, my father brought me Korean history books from everywhere he could. He even got me books from Korea! I was so excited except that they were all in Korean. I could only stare at the pictures. So he translated all 3 books for me himself. He used big post its so that his handwritten translation notes are on every page of these books. They are now my greatest treasure. Proof of how much my father supported and loved me. How much he wanted me to succeed. 

The last story he shared with me before his stroke took away his ability to talk was one he wanted me to write into a book. It was about a remote train station deep in the rural mountains of Korea. Where a stationmaster sits and waits for a train that comes only once a day. Sometimes a few people get off and disappear into the mountains. Sometimes nobody gets off, but always the stationmaster is there. Every day. He waits. Everyday. For years. He is always there. Until one day, he is gone.

What happened? I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “You’re the storyteller now. You write the story. That is your job.”

Yes, that’s my job now. I am my father’s daughter. I too am a writer and a storyteller. I will continue telling my father’s stories for him. But my father is not gone. He is here in my heart and in my memory. His stories are all there. I will treasure them forever. And I will pass them on to my children so they can always remember their grandfather.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The "Diversity Agenda People"

I want to point out that Meg Rosoff singles out Debbie Reese, a good friend of mine and a librarian who happens to be a Native American woman and runs the American Indians in Children's Literature website. If you follow the facebook post, which is public to facebook users, you will see that she repeatedly singles her out for her diatribe.

Meg Rosoff claims that the "Diversity Agenda People" (of which I clearly am one) are part of the growing community of kid lit bullies that run around "traumatizing" white authors and illustrators from ever working on diverse projects again. Let me repeat that, for pointing out legitimate concerns in books, non-white critics are bullies. White people criticize books and they are called, wait for it, CRITICS. But POC criticize a book and we are called BULLIES. You know what this reminds me of? How the media called #Blacklivesmatters protestors peacefully marching - THUGS while calling the violent, property destroying white people from pumpkinfest are just ROWDY and UNRULY. This is how racism works. Using language to undermine, dismiss, and be contemptuous of the efforts of those who have been systemically oppressed.

Do I find it odd that the books that us "bullies" attack are on the best books of the year lists? This comment made me laugh so hard. Because, lets be real here, who are the people who usually put all these book lists together? hmmmmmm?

Do I feel bad that an author was "traumatized" for being called out on writing something problematic? Listen, I don't want anyone to be traumatized, but I do want them to learn and DO better. And the response from Emily Jenkins was perfect (see comments on post), because she recognized and owned her mistake, and then she truly apologized. The authors who really care about children really do want to do the right thing. And when these issues are pointed out to them, they don't get defensive and tell people they are taking things out of context, they open their eyes, their minds, their hearts, and they really understand. And then I know they Will do better, because they care. The ones who get defensive and nasty, well, they don't really care about kids. They care only about themselves. They care only that they are right.

Meg Rosoff goes on to state that the strongest backlash is coming from editors who are "backing away from publishing books featuring diversity characters/stories in order to avoid attacks for "micro and macro aggression."  She seems to think this is a bad thing. No, my dear Ms. Rosoff. This is actually a GOOD thing. You see NO representation is better than BAD representation. And representation provided through the lens of a white viewpoint only is always bad. None of us wants that kind of representation. Racism is bad enough, thank you very much.

Perhaps editors will finally start asking white authors who write diversely if they have vetted their books before they end up acquiring another problematic book. Perhaps editors will have learned the importance of using another lens when acquiring books written by white people about marginalized communities. Perhaps editors will start looking to acquire more writers of colors who are desperately trying to tell their own stories. Perhaps editors have finally realized that diversity is not a trend, but that it is people's lives, and that all people deserve to be treated with respect and empathy.

However, there is one thing that is for certain, the call for diversity is not going away and publishing is going to have to change. And writers like Meg Rosoff are scared that they will soon become obsolete.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Too cute!

Sloths Are So Talkative!
Did you know #Sloths made this adorable sound? It's like they're calling out for us to hug them, too cute! What animals do you think they sound like? Tell us below and share the video if you want to see more #SlothSundays.
Posted by Animalist on Sunday, May 17, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Gaithersburg Book Festival

I'm really excited to let you all know that I'm going to be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this Saturday, May 16 from 11 to 12. It will be a We Need Diverse Books panel and it will be with an amazing line up!! Gene Luen Yang, Tracey Baptiste and Aisha Saeed!!! My youngest is beside herself with joy because she has read and loved both Gene's The Shadow Hero and Tracey's The Jumbies! And I can tell you that Aisha's Written in the Stars is an incredibly moving, emotional novel that will send you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. So yeah, I'm part of this amazing panel and I couldn't be more excited!

So if you are in the area, please come to the Gaithersburg Book FEstival, this is one of the BEST festivals out there so don't miss it!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

KING is officially out today!!

It is the finale!! I am very proud of it. Very proud of finishing the series. And sad to leave it behind. I did a post for Diversity in YA here on Taekkyon and finishing the series. Please go check it out. And if you haven't read the first in the series, please take advantage of the fact that Prophecy is only $1.99 on all ebook platforms right now!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

YA Scavenger Hunt 2015

Hello Everyone! I'm part of the Spring 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt! There are eight outstanding teams this season. I am going to be a part of #TeamTeal! The Scavenger Hunt runs from April 2nd through April 5th beginning and ending at noon Pacific time on those days. If you've never been a part of the hunt before you should give it a try. It runs like a giant blog hop, introducing you to new YA authors and books along the way. There are tons of prizes including a grand prize for each team. If you win one of the grand prizes you will get a book from each author on that team! For more information and to make sure you get hunt updates, sign up for news on the #YASH website.  You don't want to miss out on this fabulous and fun event, but play fast because the hunt is only live for three days. So come back on April 2nd!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

tumblr tumblr bumblr

yeah that title was on purpose but to be honest I'm pretty much only on tumblr and twitter these days. So if you want to find me, please check me out there.

I'll link you to my latest tumblr blog post titled "A Message to the Gatekeepers."

Hope you like it!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

King Release Date delayed

Hi everyone!
Well I was surprised to find out that the release date everyone else had online was actually right and I was wrong. I was originally told that King would be released on December 31, 2014. But marketing feels it would be better for us to wait so King won't be out until March 31, 2015. Other than the fact that I have a huge box of bookmarks that say December 31, 2014, I'm actually not upset with the delay. It should allow Warrior to come out in paperback and hopefully help bring Prophecy to a wider audience. So I'm going to assume it is all good! :o)

In the meantime, there is going to be quite a lot of WNDB news coming out in the next few weeks and I'm excited to share it with you all. If you haven't signed up for the WNDB newsletter. Please do so here. With all the money that WNDB has raised, we are going to be able do do some really great things, thanks to all of you!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

WNDB Indiegogo Campaign!!! And Personal Appeal

Dear WNDB Supporter or future supporter:

You may have heard of We Need Diverse Books as the organization whose hashtag went viral back in May when we launched a campaign to share with the world why diverse books in literature matter. We were covered in many major news outlet from around the globe and the coverage shows no sign of slowing down.

Since then we’ve incorporated, and have new initiatives coming down the pipeline. Programs such as Diversity in the Classroom, The Walter Dean Myers grants and awards, our Educational kits and programs, and our Diversity Festival will directly impact diversity in children's literature.

These programs are all geared to make change happen. And we need your help! We’ve just launched an indiegogo campaign to help fund our goals. All donations are tax-deductible. Bonus: You can choose from a plethora of perks including original art prints, t-shirts, totes, agent critiques, dinner with top authors and more! Every dollar you donate goes directly into our programs. You can be the change. Let’s teach all of our children about empathy by sharing the Story of Us All. If you can't donate financially, that's okay too. We can still use your support to spread the message as widely as possible. Some ways you can help are:

  1. Please pass this message on to 5 or 10 folks who may be interested in supporting this campaign and buying a perk!
  2. Use Twibbon to add some WNDB flair to your avatar (
  3. Participate in our cue card contest by creating your own sign to emphasize why you #SupportWNDB, whether it’s for yourself, because of a family member, or because of a diverse book that changed your life. Use the templates we’ve created ( and submit pictures to our Tumblr. The photos with the most reblogs will win a WNDB prize pack. Make sure to tell your local librarian to participate as well—your local library could win a huge book donation prize!

We can't do it without you. Please join us and Support WNDB.

Ellen Oh, President 

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