Author Linda Trinh seeks authenticity

In March 2021, my nine-year-old daughter was making “Stop Asian Hate” signs for a rally I was taking her to that was raising awareness about anti-Asian racism. As she tried to figure out this problem, one of her favorite activities was playing a multiplayer online game where she could care for virtual pets and hang out virtually with her friends IRL. At that time, my six-year-old son asked me not to put sticky rice with dried shrimp in his lunch anymore because his classmates made fun of this Vietnamese food. Along with this food drama, the activity that brought him the biggest smile was creating sets of battle mech building blocks.

I was writing what would become the Nguyen Kids series at that time. Watching my children and remembering when I was a child, it seemed like everything happened at the same time, the good and the bad, the big and the small.

To write engaging stories for young readers, my goal is to reflect children’s IRL experiences, which means writing about “all things.” My intention is to include siblings by doing what all children do – playing, spending time with friends, going on adventures –and situations (uncontrollable) that can make them uncomfortable and question themselves. Incorporating aspects of my Vietnamese cultural heritage is also very important to me, as culture is an identity factor. I strive to write stories that reflect the lived experiences and identities of certain readers and that are relevant and entertaining for all readers.

In the first Nguyen Kids book, The secret of the jade bracelet, Anne Nguyen, nine, deals with her ballet teacher who directs racial microaggressions at her. In Book 2, The power of the pearl earrings, Anne’s eight-year-old sister Liz is kicked out of school because her classmate behaves in a sexist way towards her. Unfortunately, children often experience these types of situations in their own lives, especially children from historically marginalized communities. For this reason, it was important to me to include themes of social injustice in each book in the series in an age-appropriate way and with accessible language and vocabulary.

Each book in the series is told from a brother’s point of view speaking in an unfiltered and immediate way. They are characters who make mistakes, speak negatively about themselves, no longer know how to act and have fears and regrets. They describe their emotional reactions, both immediate and persistent. Although some readers may not have experienced these kinds of situations directly, I hope they can relate to the feelings. Have they ever felt like there were knots in their stomachs, their palms were sweaty and they just wanted to go hide? Young readers often feel “disgust”—“Something’s wrong”/“I don’t like it”—without yet having the words to express it. I hope that reading about children who openly express these feelings will create a way to better understand unfamiliar and sometimes difficult experiences.

In all the books in the series, a child asks another child, “Are you okay?” as a way to reflect empathy. I read stories of kids bullying each other, kids being mean to each other, and siblings arguing. While these are authentic experiences for sure, it’s also authentic that the children are kind, that they are friends and allies, and that the siblings care about each other. It was important for me to show it. I want to write stories that convey everything – the range of emotions and experiences children have that are often not recognized by adults.

It’s a sad truth that the world doesn’t wait for children to reach a certain age or reach a certain level of development before traumatic events occur. So, as a parent, I crave stories that explore issues like racism, sexism, discrimination, and hate in a thoughtful way. Then my children may be able to recognize and begin to understand on their own how to handle these situations as they grow and develop. This is the power of stories. I appreciate how young readers are open and curious and feel deeply. As an author, I want to tell the stories that young readers will read and re-read, think and talk, and say, “I feel seen!”

Linda Trinh is a Vietnamese-Canadian author living in Winnipeg. The Nguyen Kids is published by Annick Press.

Back to main functionality.

A version of this article originally appeared in the 09/26/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: Write on “All things”

About Florence M. Sorensen

Check Also

Russian Hackers Release Stolen Abortion Records on Dark Web

People’s stolen data is published on the dark web under a “good list” and a …