36 Finalists Blog: Kao Kalia Yang

Each day leading up to the 32nd annual Minnesota Book Awards announcement, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists.

Interview with Kao Kalia Yang, author of A Map Into the World, part of the Children’s Literature category, sponsored by Books for Africa

How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

I love Minnesota and its community of book people. It’s wonderful that A Map Into the World is a finalist for a MN Book Award. I recognize the bounty and the beauty of the books that come from our state each year. I am honored and excited.

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know?

There is tremendous beauty in a child’s discovery of the seasons of a year and the seasons of a life. It’s a gift to be able to take a real-life story and put it into the pages of a children’s book, to remind all of us, young and old, that within each of us, we carry a map for others. The book is a celebration of love and the courage to care for our communities across different seasons.

Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite space to write from is well-rested, but I haven’t had that privilege in years–since I started having children. I like places full of flowers and light and life happening around me. I don’t listen to any music; I want to hear the world interacting with me in real time, and see the flow of people around me. Because I am not writing from a place of rest, it is a necessary reminder that I’m writing the thick of life.

Minnesota has a reputation as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?

Minnesota has funding for arts written into its Constitution via the Land and Legacy grant. We’ve got more grants for artists than any other state. We have long seasons, some of them more conducive to reflection than others, that give us all room to feel through life’s moments and sometimes to put that to the page. We have tremendous booksellers, librarians, and teachers embedded in our communities, people eager to celebrate a culture of storytelling and literacy. Then, we have writers galore here and some mighty fine presses that cull voices from elsewhere. All this creates a rich environment to foster great literature and literacy.

What is something you are good at that few people know about?

For much of my life, I’ve struggled with coloring. I don’t like to stay in between the lines. In my adulthood, I’m learning how to color for the first time, to stay true to someone’s image. I’m getting good at it.

What do you love about libraries?

I love that libraries are free. I love that they are filled with books and stories in other forms. I love that they have computers and grant community members access to the store of possibilities on the Internet. I love that they exists as a reminder that we care about each other, our journeys across time and space, and exists to inspire the future by making possible pieces of the past.

Kao Kalia Yang is a two-time Minnesota Book Award winner, author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father. This is her debut book for young readers.