Interview with Andrea Wang, WATERCRESS
At first, a young girl is embarrassed when her family wades in a ditch off the side of the road to collect watercress growing wild. But when her mother shares a story of her family's time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.
Pick by Minh Lê, Drawn Together:
Written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin
Publisher: Holiday House/Neal Porter Books (March 30, 2021)
What inspired you to write Watercress? AW: "Watercress is based on a memory that I couldn't get out of my head. At first, it seemed like a pleasant childhood memory of picking watercress with my family, but as I began really examining how I felt about the experience I realized that there were more complicated emotions associated with it. Writing the book was my way of exploring those layers of emotion and memory."
Minh Lê wrote that Watercress "deftly captures the complex emotions of assimilation in a way that makes it a modern-day classic." What are some other picture books you love for how they explore assimilation? "Wow, thanks for the incredibly kind words, Minh! Other picture books I love for how they explore assimilation are: A Different Pond by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, which is about a young Vietnamese boy who goes fishing with his immigrant father in the pre-dawn hours; The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Le, where a young Hmong girl longs for braces but discovers the true meaning of beauty; and Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho, which is a heartfelt, joyous celebration of the feature that connects an Asian girl to her heritage."
What did you love reading to your sons at age three? At age five? "I loved reading all of Grace Lin's picture books to my sons when they were those ages. I also loved hearing them laugh, so I read lots of humorous books to them like Ice Cream Bear by Jez Alborough, Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley, and Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, and illustrated by Audrey Colman."
What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade is so much more than a book about fighting an oil pipeline. It is at once a heartbreaking example of what people are doing to the environment as well as a rousing call to action, reminding us that we are all connected to each other and to the earth, and together we can effect change. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by the late Floyd Cooper is a heartrending yet sensitive depiction of the worst racial attack in U.S. history -- an event that wasn't simply forgotten, but actively covered up for 75 years. It's imperative that historical events like this are brought to light and the stories shared as widely as possible, if we are to forge a more just and equitable future for our children."