Publishing Your Way as a Change Maker: The First Chinese Festivals

Publishing Your Way as a Change Maker: The First Chinese Festivals

I came across this Cornell webinar from an alumni email about a “Leadership Lunch and Learning” webinar series.  The topic was the following:

L Sam Zhang, author and illustrator of The First Chinese Festivals series of picture books, speaks on on the process of becoming a self-published author/illustrator, how her Cornell experience shaped her trajectory, and more!”

I had passed along the webinar to a friend who I thought might be interested in the topic, She  watched and loved the webinar, so I watched it myself after the recording became available. I enjoyed learning about L Sam Zhang’s journey from Cornell to getting her Ph.D. in Neuroscience to self-publishing her books. She has published three books so far:


The First Lantern Festival: To help a servant girl see her family again, the famous Dongfang Shuo convinced everyone that the gods were coming to burn down the city! Even the emperor believed him. Come discover the legend of how the Lantern Festival began over 2,000 years ago. Along the way, you may learn a few Chinese words and meet some interesting historical figures.

The First Dragon Boat Festival: The Dragon Boat Festival celebrates the first Chinese poet, Qu Yuan. And before the poet came along, this Chinese holiday was all about getting rid of creepy crawlies at the beginning of summer! Come explore the many traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival. Along the way, you may learn a few Chinese words and get to know some interesting historical figures.

The First Moon Festival: After saving the world, Houyi the hero received a pill of immortality. When a villain went after the pill, Houyi’s wife Chang’e made a choice that got her trapped on the moon. Join us for a visit into the world of Chinese mythology, and maybe learn a few Chinese words while we’re at it.

The books are relatively inexpensive ($11 each), so I bought all three of them. Call me a banana, but I have never heard of the Lantern Festival. I kind of knew about some elements of the Dragon Boat Festival, like eating zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves). For the Moon Festival (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival), I am well aware of mooncakes (which are not very healthy for you – lots of fat and sugar!). While growing up in Western Massachusetts, I’d attend Chinese school on Saturday’s north of Springfield, near Amherst or later on Sunday’s near Hartford, and sometimes the Chinese language books would have stories about Chinese history or mythology. Maybe I had known some of the background and history of some of these festivals and had long forgotten. But it’s great that we have Asian American authors filling a gap, especially for non-Chinese reading/speaking U.S. mass market.

The books are very approachable, as they are geared toward young children. The books are illustrated by Zhang as well, and the characters are classy, simple and approachable and aid in the storytelling. The books include Chinese characters and romanization of those characters for pronunciation to help teach a little Chinese. I think any parents of young children would be happy telling these stories to their kids, especially if they are Chinese ethnic background or live an area where these festival are celebrated widely like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, or New York City.



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