I grew up on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. Home was an airy house
next to a fishpond and a big garden, with rice fields, where water buffalo
wallowed in mudholes, on the other side of the palm trees. I liked the
usual things - eating roasted coconuts and fried bananas, chasing catfish
in the grass in the rain.
Although I write in English, my first language was
Chinese. Because my parents are from China they praised me, scolded me,
told me long bedtime stories and recited poetry to me all in Chinese. No
wonder then, that I think of Chinese as they language of my heart. As I
grew older, I absorbed Thai from interacting with people in the busy streets
and marketplaces and temple fairs of Bangkok. Thai for me is a functional
language and I think of it as the language of my hands. Only much later
did I learn English from strict teachers in school, and so I think of English
as the language of my head.
started to write only after I left home, as a
way to conjure up Thailand for myself, to combat homesickness while studying at Cornell University.
There was a greenhouse on the campus with a single potted banana tree in
it. During my first winter I used to sit near that tree and imagine that
I was home. Soon, however, I realized that words could evoke images of
home even more effectively than the banana tree and I began to write down
notes about the things I missed. My first book, ãSing to the Dawnä (1975),
grew naturally out of those notes.
Since then, Minfong has written two more novels, four picture books, and
numerous short stories. Her books have received various awards, among them a
Caldecott Honor, Best Books for Young Adults (American Library Association),
Notable Children's Book (National Council on Social Studies/Children's Book
Council) and Parents Choice Award. She has also received the Southeast Asian
Write Award, and Singapore's Cultural Medallion.
Although she has lived and worked in several countries since getting her MFA
from Cornell, she and her husband, John Dennis, are now based back in Ithaca,
where their three children, Danfung, Mei-Mei and Chris, all attend school.
She enjoys giving school presentations and can be reached at: [email protected]