recently, i signed the paloma up for the Chicago City of Big Readers program:
"The program is open to all Chicago children age 3 and up. Participating children read, report on books of their choosing and have fun with programs and projects about Chicago. Children get a sticker for their book log for each book read and can win book prizes and earn a City of Big Readers t-shirt by reading books."
i'm not sure if the progam is run differently per library but at our branch, the kids get to choose a "prize" - bubbles, candy, jump ropes, small dolls, yo-yos, etc... - for every five books they read. after reading twenty five books, their names are entered into a large raffle where they may win iPods or bicycles or other random larger prizes...
i rarely find books with any asian characters/stories at our local branch, but for some reason, i'm finding more than usual lately. the majority of the books that the paloma has read have had asian or asian american stories or asian heroes/heroines. it's been really enlightening and empowering and has started some funny and thoughtful conversations between us.
eventually, i'll post the list of 25 books (she's at 21!) that the paloma has "read" (yes, i'm doing the reading, but she's doing the "book report" - a drawing of her favorite part in the book). but, i thought it was an appropriate time to share a book that the paloma just read called "Apple Pie 4th of July" by janet s. wong.
in the story, the young girl is bummed out that her parents have kept their store open on the 4th of july, while other neighboring stores are closed. she's embarassed that they're celebrating it with a *gasp* CHINESE food feast while everyone else is celebrating with apple pie. she says something like, "No one eats chinese food on the fourth of july." she sadly watches a distant parade go by from the store window. she's sure that her friends are watching it from the nearest street curb. to pass the time, she helps her parents by stocking the store with merchandise and helping customers find stuff for their "american" celebrations.
i remember as a child, feeling very foreign, very "unamerican" on the 4th of july, when my family would have a picnic somewhere maybe montrose beach or at a local forest preserve and they'd break out the adobo in the big pot, maybe a red snapper enveloped in foil with the head still on, the rice still in the rice cooker insert, and mangoes or leche flan or biko for dessert.
instead of red white and blue plates and forks, my moms would've brought the corelle and the handful of mismatched utensils we got from the thrift store. instead of a red and white picnic blanket, we'd bring a couple of the assorted and colorful banigs (straw sleeping mats).
it wasn't that i didn't like all of those things, or didn't like bein filipino. but i didn't understand why we couldn't be different, be "american" this one day out of the year... my pre-teen kingdom for just one day of the hot dogs and the jello and the hi-c.
despite some of these initial superficial letdowns, you could always find me completely worn out from all the laughing and running around playing picnic games like egg toss and sack races and pseudo badminton and volleyball. i remember one year, one of my aunts was laughing so hard while playing volleyball, that she peed in her pants. i felt so bad for her, but we were all laughing at something, i forget what, that after someone bought her some new clothes from the nearest kmart, it was pretty much forgotten.
anyhoo.... getting back to the book. after all that familiar sulking and moaning and groaning, the girl is surprised and shocked to find that people are coming into the store to order and pick up chinese food for their celebrations. some of the customers are chinese and some are caucasian. she tells them that there is no more chinese food. that she and her family ate most of it and there's little to none left. but her parents surprise and shock her again with new a fresh batch of chinese dishes that they just prepared. then, after store hours, they head up to the roof to watch fireworks and eat apple pie.
at first, the paloma did not get it... why was she sad? is she american or chinese? why wouldn't you eat chinese food if you were chinese? who doesn't LOVE egg rolls!? it was pretty comical. i tried to explain to her how the young girls' story is a lot like memories of my own childhood. how important it was for me to remember that just because i was brown and filipino, didn't mean i wasn't american, that there is no wrong way or right way to celebrate the 4th of july or any holiday for that matter and that americans (and filipinos and puerto ricans) come in all kinds of shapes, colors and sizes. this book also helped me to segue/re-introduce to her the reality that she is mixed and has more than one heritage. (i'm still SO disappointed that we missed the philippine independence day celebration downtown AND the puerto rican day parade in the humboldt park neighborhood.)
so, if you haven't already, check out the book and the writer's website - she has a TON of books/poetry, visits schools and writer's conferences, she even reads some of her work online too. :)
and have a happy relaxing holiday everybody! we don't have any plans as of yet... i think we might just sleep. 'cause honestly, there's no way we're getting any sleep tonight or the next night... in these parts, they're pretty partial to the M-80s and the cherry bombs... LOTS and LOTS of M-80s.
fire go BOOM!