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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Traci Huahn


Traci Huahn (she/her) writes picture books and especially loves stories rooted in Asian American culture, history, and identity. Mamie Tape Fights to go to School is her debut picture book. As a former attorney and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she feels a deep connection to Mamie’s story and hopes it will inspire young readers to become changemakers, even it starts by taking just one small step. Visit Traci's website to learn more about her and her work. You can also find her on social media at Visit Traci at @tracihuahn.


1. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Why?

One of my favorites was Bread and Jam for Frances, written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Lillian Hoban. I loved it as a child and, as an adult, I’ve loved reading it with my kids. The childlike voice of Frances is so spot-on and I love the jump rope rhymes that Frances makes up and how they reflect her changing moods. In fact, in my book Mamie Tape Fights to go to School, I included a scene where Mamie chants a skipping rope rhyme that was inspired by my love of Frances’ jump rope songs!

 

2. What kind of student were you? What were your favorite subjects? 

I was one of those kids who loved school. In fact, even now, I love taking classes and attending workshops! My favorite subjects were always reading, writing, and art. I still have my writing journals from 4th and 5th grade and it’s so fun to go back and read the stories I came up with at that age. My love of school and learning is part of what inspired me to write this book and shed light on this little known fight for school rights.

 

3. Did you have a favorite teacher when you were a child? What made them so special? 

One of my favorite teachers was Miss Amy Edgerley, my 3rd grade teacher at Thornhill Elementary School in Oakland, California. What I loved most about Miss Edgerly is that she accepted me for who I was. While other teachers sent home report card notes saying I needed to speak up more in class, Miss Edgerley never did. She appreciated my quiet but determined nature.

 

4. If you could tell readers one secret about Mamie Tape Fights to go to School, what would it be? 

In the scene where Mamie and her family celebrate Chinese New Year, the dishes on the table were inspired by actual dishes that were hand-painted by Mamie’s mom, Mary Tape. As part of my research, I visited Mamie’s great-granddaughter and she has a set of the dishes beautifully displayed in a china cabinet in her home. It was really special to see them in person!

 

5. What was the most challenging thing you faced while writing/researching this book? 

I did most of my research for this book during the pandemic, when a lot of anti-Asian hate was on the rise. Digging up old newspapers about Mamie’s case from the 1880s and seeing the many parallels to what was happening in real-time was at times hard to process. But in some ways, it also helped me access my emotions on a deeper level and really channel what Chinese Americans faced at that time.

 

6. Who should read this book? 

I really hope all young children and the adults in their lives–teachers, librarians, parents and caregivers–will read this book and be inspired by Mamie Tape’s brave steps fighting to get into school. This book provides a wonderful entry point to this important and little known piece of history and I hope young readers will come away with an understanding that even though change often comes slowly, it’s always worth fighting for.

 

Are you a traditionally published middle-grade or picture book creator? Interested in beng part of the Six Questions blog? We have openings beginning in November. Drop an email to mary@boonewrites.com to get signed up.

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