Growing up, there weren’t many people who looked like me on television, in movies, or depicted on pages in books. Asian culture wasn’t mainstream in the San Francisco suburb where I grew up. I didn’t feel confident sharing the food my family loved, speaking Cantonese with my friends, or even sharing customs like Chinese New Year and Moon Festival with my friends until I was much older.
My own teens experienced racial discrimination, stereotypes, and microaggressions in elementary, middle, and high school. Classmates have made of what’s in their lunch boxes and perpetuated stereotypes about Asians always wearing glasses. It’s hard to develop a sense of racial identity and pride when anti-Asian racist incidents seem normalized. Here are 6 Things You Can Do to Stop Asian Hate.
Rather than normalizing anti-Asian sentiments, it’s time to normalize Asian culture, experience, and pride. That’s the idea behind the new book, How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? by author, Marissa Merrill, and illustrator, Sara Menges.
Together Marissa and Sara aim to celebrate Asian American culture through food while teaching young children to notice their emotions. This playful book teaches children vital skills while honoring their culture and encouraging them to speak up about who they are.
About How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling?
How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? is a 6×6 inch, 22-page board book that follows Little Dumpling on an adorable adventure through a restaurant. Through rhyme, Little Dumpling names his feelings, describe how they show up in his body, and reminds children to notice their own emotions. The book encourages young children to seek a safe adult to share experiences with in order to receive support.
Both the author (Marissa) and illustrator (Sara) of this book are Asian American women have been friends for a long time.
They wrote this book because although there are many wonderful books that explain emotions, most fail to represent cultural diversity.
How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? aims to teach the next generation vital skills while normalizing Asian culture, experience, and pride.
Interview with How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? Author, Marissa Merrill
How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? is a book I wish existed when I was little. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Marissa some questions about their first book.
Tech Savvy Mama: What inspired you to write a book that explores emotions through Asian American food and culture?
Congee Club Kids: We brainstormed multiple different book ideas that we are planning to write and publish. However, this one felt fun, playful, informative, and also within our comfort zone. It felt like a good first book to write/illustrate. The books we’ve seen on emotions thus far have helped my (Marissa’s) toddler name her feelings and I’m so grateful for that, and also there hasn’t been a book on emotions that reflect her culture.
Additionally, our experience of Asian culture has been that emotions can be a taboo topic. We wanted to create a resource for Asian American parents that felt fun, accessible, and familiar (like food) even if it approached a subject that can feel scary (emotions).
Tech Savvy Mama: A goal of the book is to develop emotionally aware human beings. Besides reading How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? at home, what else can parents do with their toddlers and preschoolers at home to foster emotional intelligence?
Congee Club Kids: This is such a great question! One of the best ways to foster emotional intelligence in our own kiddos, is to do our own work and learn to be aware of our own feelings, internal dialogues, and past experiences that may be playing a part in how we parent. We can’t help our kids befriend and learn to regulate their own feelings if we ourselves are dysregulated.
Tech Savvy Mama: One of the most difficult aspects of parenting is the wide range of emotions young kids feel every day that can change on a dime. What advice do you have for caregivers during the most stressful moments of parenting?
Congee Club Kids: Also a great question. One of the reasons why tantrums and these big emotions (that can happen so quickly) can feel so stressful is often because we ourselves either expect something else from our children and/or we feel that the way our kids are behaving says something about how we are parenting. I (Marissa) struggle with this too sometimes.
Naming and normalizing that big outbursts are normal for toddlers and learning to be aware of our reactions to our kids’ emotions can hugely help to at least take the edge off of these stressful moments. With that being said, going through multiple highs and lows within the span of five minutes is not a fun experience. We can say that parenting a toddler is stressful, AND also, we can take some of the pressure off of ourselves and know that we don’t have to be perfect!
Tech Savvy Mama: I love the Letter from Mama Dumpling to caregivers that features tips for mindful awareness at the end of the book. Besides the steps in the 5-step guide, what are some other lessons you hope parents will learn from reading How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? to their child?
Congee Club Kids: When writing How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling?, we included both emotions that were pleasant and unpleasant to experience. I (Marissa) know often times, when I’m going to other parenting experts or friends for advice, it’s when I’m having trouble with my toddler’s more unpleasant feelings.
I think what is equally important is the ability to not only join our kiddos in their harder feelings, but also in easy ones like love and happiness. Our hope is that this book would not only the beginnings of conversations on emotions and tools for parents and kiddos, but also play and joy.
Get Your Copy of How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling?
How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? is currently a Kickstarter project. Backers who pledge $25 or more at the Dumpling Enthusiast level will receive a copy of the Little Dumpling board book, bookmark, and a personalized thank you card. Marisa and Sara expect books to ship in March 2023 and I promise you, this book is worth the wait!
For more information, visit the How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? Kickstarter page.
No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are my own. Images from How Are You Feeling Little Dumpling? courtesy of Congee Club Kids. Huge thanks to Marissa for agreeing to be interviewed for this blog post. Thank you for supporting AAPI authors and illustrators by backing this project on Kickstarter!