From historic figures like women’s rights activist Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee and astronaut Kalpana Chawla, to contemporary trailblazers like surfer Carissa Moore and disability activist Alice Wong, this book is sure to inspire readers of all ages and backgrounds.
Maia and Alex Shibutani, Olympic figure skating medalists and siblings, have co-written a children’s picture book titled Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All that features Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) figures who have made significant contributions to society. The duo was inspired to write this book because they believe in the power of representation.
Growing up, their parents did their best to expose them to books with characters they could relate to. However, options were limited at that time, and the Shibutanis did not want the next generation to have the same experience. Thus, they decided to write a book that would offer representation and recognition to AAPI figures from different eras and professions.
“We wanted this book to have a balance of information, storytelling, and illustrations that highlighted AAPI figures from different eras and professions,” Alex said. “It was important to us that historic figures like Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Kalpana Chawla, and Daniel Inouye were included so that their contributions can be recognized and appreciated.”
The book also features contemporary figures such as Carissa Moore (surfer), Alice Wong (disability activist), and Prabal Gurung (designer), who continue to do amazing work.
Maia shared that they were motivated to research and write this project because of Victoria Manalo Draves and Dr. Sammy Lee, who were divers that represented Team USA at the 1948 Summer Olympics.
“Victoria was the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal and Sammy was the first Asian American man to win an Olympic gold medal. Even though we are athletes, we only learned about them and their accomplishments a few years ago,” Maia said. “I think if their stories had been more visible in mainstream ways, it would’ve made us feel less alone in our own experiences.”
The writing process was a team effort that included Dane Liu as co-author and Aaliya Jaleel as illustrator. The Shibutanis expressed their gratitude to their collaborators, and their editor, Jenny Bak, for believing in their idea.
“Our illustrator, Aaliya Jaleel, began her process once we were further along with the text. We love and admire her use of color. The illustrations are very inviting and will greatly enhance the experience for young readers,” Maia said. “Our core team is composed of people in New York, Texas, California, and Oregon. We are grateful that everyone was willing to put in extra time to make this book as wonderful as possible.”
The Shibutanis hope that their book will inspire people to do more research about the AAPI community and encourage them to follow their dreams. They also want the book to become a strong example that shows the publishing industry that more stories like this can and should be shared.
“While there has been improvement over time, society and our educational system have overlooked the history and contributions of certain groups in our country,” Alex said. “One of the stories we celebrate is of the photographer Corky Lee, who recreated the Transcontinental Railroad photo with descendants of the workers.”
The Shibutanis have many exciting projects in the works, including Alex’s first photographic exhibit in May. They will continue to use their voices and creativity to share work that they believe in.
Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All is scheduled to be released on April 18th, 2023. Pre-orders for this highly anticipated book are now available.