You Are Life: Author's Note

Artwork from the picture book poem You Are Life by Bao Phi, illustrated by Hannah Li, featuring an Asian American girl standing underneath a rainbow with a guitar playing elephant, skateboarding bunny, and other vibrant and fantastical illustrations
Color headshot image of author Bao Phi with blue background

Bao Phi

You Are Life: Author's Note

April 22, 2022


Illustrated image of Asian American girl wearing rainboots and standing in a puddle with a rainbow reflection from the picture book You Are Life by Bao Phi and illustrated by Hannah Li

Stories can inspire, comfort, and inform. They can entertain and delight. They can also combat hate…in the most beautiful way possible.

The genesis of a children’s book is not always a happy event. Motivated by the increased violence and cruelty against Asians and Asian Americans at the onset of the pandemic, Bao Phi came to us with an idea for a picture book initially titled You Are Not a Virus. By offering words as salve and balm and armor, he hoped to undo at least a bit of the hurt he knew children in his community were feeling.

Read Bao’s Author’s Note below to learn more about the story behind You Are Life.

—Kristen Mohn, Managing Editor


Author’s Note

By Bao Phi

Unfortunately, anti-Asian violence is nothing new. It is a part of history, usually invisible. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sudden attention given to anti-Asian hate crimes allowed a window into that hurt, that struggle that Asian Americans are all too familiar with.

Unfortunately, many Americans, of many different races, did not understand that racism against Asians is something that exists, so there was an erasure of our experience to go along with the violence. During that time, as a father to an Asian American child, there were so many emotions surging through me: anger, sadness, fear, resentment, exhaustion.

Interior book spread from You Are Life by Bao Phi and illustrated by Hanna Li which features children marching with signs inside the silhouette of a child

But also, a glimmer of wanting to offer something hopeful, something that said, yes, this happened to us, we must mark this history. At the same time, we must celebrate our lives . . . life in the multitudes of how we exist, outside the boxes that we are all squeezed into.

And so, this poem to young children came into being. To those who are not Asian American: thank you for taking the time and effort to read and learn about an experience outside of your own. To Asian Americans: you are not alone, and you are loved. Thank you to the many Asian American friends who lived through this experience together, and who checked in with one another during these difficult times. Thank you to the kidlit community and everyone at Capstone, especially Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen and Krissy Mohn. And of course, thank you to Hannah Li, for the beautiful illustrations.

Book cover image of You Are Life by Bao Phi, illustrated by Hannah Li

Preview You Are Life, publishing in September 2022!

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