Category Archives: Indonesian American

Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

“More than anything, I wished that my mother and my daughter could have known and loved each other,” Maya Soetoro-Ng writes in her “Author’s Note,” mourning her late mother (anthropologist S. Ann Dunham), who died a decade before her granddaughter Suhaila was born. Through the infinite magic of words and the gorgeous imagination of Yuyi Morales‘ illustrations, Soetoro-Ng “unite[s] grandmother and grandchild through a story in which my mother could meet one of her granddaughters and share the moon with her.”

Inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s painting of the same name, Ladder to the Moon is an exquisite, multi-generational journey of love and hope. “‘What was Grandma Annie like?’” Suhaila asks. “‘Full, soft, and curious. Your grandma would wrap her arms around the whole world if she could,” Mama assures her. Suhaila continues to wonder that night, and “as though in answer … a golden ladder appeared on the edge of the sill.” Grandma Annie emerges to take the curious Suhaila by the hand, and climb the beckoning ladder.

Nestled together into the moon, Suhaila and Grandma Annie share a smile until “they too knew each other completely. Sometimes a smile is strong enough to do that.” Suhaila watches as Annie guides the children lost in tragedies (a “fifty-foot wave” and “two tall towers that trembled”) to safety. Annie promises the children “‘We’ll work together,’” in order to “build bridges and buildings and bonds between people.”

Suhaila witnesses the power of prayer, the people below united in spite of all their different faiths into “hope’s massive stream.” The more she sees, the harder she listens, and the deeper she feels her grandmother’s love; with every new experience she shares with Annie, Suhaila “knew more than she had known before.” Soon enough, Suhaila herself learns how to heal.

Suhaila’s magical journey ends with a “snuggle and a smooch” before she tumbles back to bed, returning as a young harbinger of Grandma Annie’s healing wisdom. “Come. Tell me everything,” Mama gently greets her traveling daughter. And thus the story can begin anew…

Soetoro-Ng and Morales offer a wondrous tale of how each of us – even the youngest children – can “plant seeds in soft soil,” both literally and figuratively, as we nourish and heal one other.  Together, with renewed love and hope, the earth can become a safe harbor for us all.

Readers: Children

Published: 2011

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Hapa, Indonesian American

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

dreams-from-my-fatherThe inaugural post for a historic inaugural year!

While finding out so much more about our first African American president, you can also discover his Asian Pacific American cultural heritage, as well. He was born in Hawai‘i, his father-figure ages 4-6 was an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetero, who would eventually become his stepfather, he lived in Indonesia fitting right in with the locals during formative years 6-10, has a hapa Indonesian American sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, who is herself married to a Chinese Canadian, learned Indonesian in six months, and returned to Hawai‘i to finish his pre-college education at Punahou School. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Of course, the book has so many memorable characters and stories to offer. The preface to the latest re-issued edition is a heart-breaking homage to his late mother. The memories of his maternal grandmother are especially wrenching with the realization that she passed away just before she could witness her beloved grandson’s victory as the 44th U.S. President. And his experiences in Kenya with his absent, late father’s side of the family are both comedy and tragedy combined.

Tidbits: The audible version of the book, which Obama himself reads, is quite the experience – that voice makes you believe he’s personally telling you his stories. The final track is a bonus: his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address as the good Senator from Illinois, thumping for John Kerry and John Edwards. But if you take out those names, that speech still remains eerily now – war, economic woes, still too much inequity. Now that he’s the one who’s moved into 1600 Pennsylvania … ‘Yes, we can,’ and ‘Yes, we will!’

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 1995, 2004 (re-issued with new preface)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Audio, .Nonfiction, African American, Indonesian, Indonesian American, Pacific Islander, Pan-Asian Pacific American, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American