Author Feature: Angela Ahn

Home | Angela Ahn Children's Author
Angela Ahn is the author of Krista Kim-Bap and Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field.

What path brought you to being an author?  

Like most people who majored in English, I had passing dreams of writing a book. It mostly involved thinking about a great opening line, writing it down and then doing nothing else about it. I suppose on some level, I always knew putting words down to paper was pretty easy for me–how else can you write a 10-page paper on a Shakespeare sonnet? But I didn’t have a true passion for the idea of being a fiction writer when I was younger, so I never pursued it. The year my second child went to school full-time, I found myself with a precious gift—the gift of time. It was only as a forty-something stay-at-home mom when I actually thought to myself, “Why not try?” So, I plunked myself down in front of my old 11-inch Macbook Air (I don’t recommend an 11-inch screen to anybody serious about writing) and started typing a story about a girl who loved kimchi!  

How did you end up being the author of children’s books?          

I clearly remember avoiding classes in Children’s Literature when I did my Masters of Library and Information Studies. I just wasn’t interested in children’s books at the time. Then I had my own kids children’s books slowly became an important part of our daily lives. It was only because my kids loved reading so much that I thought about writing a children’s book. I had finally read enough of them to realize that if I was going to write, it was going to be for middle grade readers. It turns out that I can write from the point of view and with the voice of a tween pretty accurately—I’m not sure exactly what that says about me, but hey, I’m rolling with it.

What drew you to writing about Krista’s and Peter’s adventures?          

I wrote Krista mostly for 11-year-old me and my daughter. I looked long and hard for a Korean-Canadian protagonist in a kid’s novel. I found ONE, Ann Y.K. Choi’s Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, but it was YA book and my little girl couldn’t read that one yet!  I cast my net a bit wider and, once again, I found exactly one English language middle grade book written by a Korean author (Jenny Han’s Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream) featuring a Korean-American character. I was grateful for the book (still am!) but I desperately wished for some Canadian representation. So I tried my best and I wrote a character that filled a huge void in Canadian children’s literature. I thought it was pretty important for me to try to write a Korean-Canadian boy in my next story (I have a son too!). I was pretty determined to keep the story very Canadian because while there is generally a lack of diverse stories in general, the lack of diverse stories featuring Canadian kids in Canadian settings is even more problematic and troubling.  

If you were to leave readers with one message, what would it be?          

When I first wrote Krista Kim-Bap, I honestly didn’t know who would read it. I thought for sure Korean kids would want it just so they could finally feel “seen,” but since that book’s publication, I’ve widened my thinking about why diverse books are important. Yes, for sure it is important for children to see themselves and their stories in books, but I think it’s actually more important for kids to read stories about experiences that are different from theirs. I would hope that diverse stories, like the ones I write, break-down stereotypes and preconceived notions. I think kids need to start doing this kind of reading early and often. I would hope that kids read widely about the experiences and feelings of kids who may look different from them so that they realize that they share much more in common with each other than they realized.  

What are you hoping will be the next steps for you and your books?          

It’s funny, I write books, but I’m scared to death of people actually reading them! Firstly, I’m just grateful to have my books published by people who cared enough to give me a chance to tell a story from an unrepresented point of view. Fundamentally, the system of how publishing works is so stacked against stories like mine, I honestly still can’t believe I’m a published author of books that feature a Korean-Canadian girl and boy on the front covers. It still blows me away that Second Story Press put Korean food so prominently on the front cover of a children’s book—almost 3 years after publication and the floating kimchi still makes my heart sing On a bit of a side note, I am also really impressed that both my publishers found Korean artists to draw the front covers for of the books. It is not a small matter to me–it was a big deal. The cover of the book is forever how the book is shown to the world. Hyein Lee (Canadian!) and Julie Kwon (American, but I still like her anyway!) captured the essence of each book and the protagonists so perfectly. They imagined and drew the faces of Krista and Peter better than I could have wished for, so I’m always, always grateful to them for the gift of their art. Was it because they knew and could understand the experiences of the characters in a really intimate way or are they just talented? Probably both. Getting back to the question, beyond just being happy to have book out in the world, I just hope young readers find their way to the books and enjoy them (or at least parts or them!). It’s always nice to receive accolades and such, but reaching individual readers is by far the most meaningful thing that can come out of writing children’s books. I would like to keep on writing middle grade books as I can’t imagine writing for any other age group right now. I think I’ve got a few stories left in me!  

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