"I don't want to be chinese"
One day, my oldest daughter, Madison, told me she didn't want to be Chinese.
It happened when she was really into Madeline and Eloise. She kept asking me why she was Chinese and they weren't, and whether she can have blonde or red hair like they do.
This prompted me to look for books with Asian characters; the few I managed to find were heavily cultural, and Madison didn't connect with any of the characters in them.
That's when she told me she didn't want to be Chinese, and it broke my heart.
But then I reflected on my childhood growing up in the U.S and remembered my own struggles with identity. For a long time, I didn't want to be Chinese either.
I started Little Ning Books and developed Pepper Zhang to write the books for my daughters that currently don't exist; books that feature fun, smart and quirky Asian children as the lead character but are also not heavily focused on cultural themes. While it's important for children to learn about different cultures, it's equally important for Asian children to see themselves in books as interesting and smart individuals rather than just products of their culture, forever linked together.
I don't want Madison and my younger daughter, Everly, to go through years of their lives wishing they weren't Asian because all the cool and fun characters they read, idolize and imitate are non-diverse.
My goal is to show them that being funny and interesting is not exclusive to only certain children. Asian children can be just as imaginative and unique as the long-standing iconic book characters that exist today.
I didn't have Pepper Zhang or anything similar when I was growing up, but I can try to make sure that my children and other children do.
Jerry, Founder & Author
Diversity Gap in Children's Books
There are over 17 million Asian Americans living in the United States, yet Asian are one of the most under-represented groups of people in the main stream media. This was highlighted recently in Alan Yang's acceptance speech at the Emmy's for "Master of None."
While more attention has been directed to the lack of Asians in film and TV recently, the significant diversity gap in children's literature is something that is practically ignored.
The following infographics proide a bleek look at the lack of progress in closing the diversity gap in children's books over the past 22 years.
In 2015, only 3.3% of children's books published in 2015 included Asians
The number of children's books that contain diversity has not grown
Only 2% of Children's books in the US included Asians in 2012!
millions of Asian children have grown up in america not having access to children's books that feature characters who look like them.
Our goal is to create beautiful picture books featuring Asian children as the main characters. It is crucial that our children have access to books that allow them to identify with the characters.
Children start developing a racial consciousness and a sense of ethnic identity around two and a half years old.
Our business model revolves around using crowd-funding to create the book projects that fulfill our mission. We will then directly sell our books through this site as well as through wholesale to independent bookstores, big box book stores, schools and libraries around the country and abroad.
Here are the current projects we plan to develop:
Boy character series