Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adoption Month: We Need Diverse Books

We need diverse books ... for many reasons.

One of the reasons is that blended families happen through adoption.

To be honest, I'm not sure I've done a good enough job purchasing diverse books for my children. How do I know this? Because my thirteen-year-old daughter, who happens to be ethnically Chinese, saw me participating in this campaign and wanted to write something about why we need diverse books.

Here are her unedited words:

Diverse Books. There aren’t many. When I think of diverse stories, I think of biographies or folk tales from different places around the world. I never really thought about America actually having a book where the main character isn’t white. Recently, I started reading, “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing” by: M.T. Anderson. I started out reading thinking that Octavian was white.  Turns out, when I got to the middle of the book, I found out he was black!  I feel like there should be more books with characters with colored skin because not everyone is white! I want more diverse characters because I want to be able to relate to characters in the books I read. That’s why we need more diverse books.

I have nothing to add, except #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Don't forget to enter my RED BUTTERFLY giveaway to celebrate adoption month!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Adoption Books for Adoption Month!

November is National Adoption Month! 

This week we're celebrating books about adoption. (Also, don't forget, I'm giving away a copy of my middle grade novel, Red Butterfly. Click here to enter!)

I know there are lots of books with adoption themes out there, but these are a few that have ended up in our house that have meant something to me.

Bear at the Beach by Clay Carmichael

We bought this picture book not knowing it was about adoption. What a lovely surprise! It gently and beautifully handles the sense of loss that most adopted children feel at being separated from their birth parents, but also gives such a beautiful picture of what family can be. The illustrations are charming and simple, the text sparse, yet engaging. What a touching tribute to adoption. Every time I read it, I choke up, without fail.

Detail from Bear at the Beach, by Clay Carmichael

The Great Call of China by Cynthia Liu

The Great Call of China is part of the S.A.S.S. series, a collection of books written by various authors. My eldest daughter devoured these books when she was a tween. They're perfect for girls who want to read higher than a normal middle grade chapter book, but aren't ready for full-fledged YA. I highly recommend them, because they take kids all around the world in a light and fun way.

I'll be honest here, though: I struggled with The Great Call of China. I read it before my daughter did and, afterward, wanted to hide it away and never let her read it! My Olivia is adopted from China and the story follows an adopted, ethnically-Chinese teenage girl who returns to China with a study abroad program, harboring a secret hope to find her birth family. I didn't want Olivia to read it because I thought the ending was completely unrealistic. **Spoiler Alert** I didn't want her to get her hopes up, to think she could go back to China, poke around a little, and instantly find her birth family!

Olivia saw the cover, however, and begged to read it. Can I just say that she has now read this book at least five times? Several times I've walked into her room to find her randomly rereading it!

Which shows how much I know. And really, maybe I was overprotective in trying to keep a book like this away from her, not wanting her to get her hopes up about finding her birth family. Maybe I need to give her credit for being a smart young lady who can think for herself, and apply reasonable expectations for herself, and dream for herself....

I still think the novel handles the subject unrealistically, but I'm so glad my Chinese daughter found a character with whom she could identify. That in itself is priceless!

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge

This is non-fiction! And sort of a self-help book! If you know me, you know I rarely read non-fiction (though sometimes the occasional biography) and generally have an aversion to self-help books. (I might be a little overly confident that I can figure things out on my own.) A friend of mine gave me this book, however, after it changed her perspective. She said, "I wish I'd had this book when my kids were growing up!" Since that's pretty high praise, I decided to go ahead and read it.

I'm so glad I did. The author is a grown adopted child and her insight is priceless. Reading this book has given me a whole new empathy for my adopted child. It softened my heart when my heart was in danger of growing hard. It gave me a new perspective, just like it gave my friend. It gave me a lot of hope, too.

I'd love to hear if you've read any of these books, or if there's an adoption book you've loved. Please comment here, but also make sure to comment on my post for the Red Butterfly giveaway

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November is Adoption Month!

November is Adoption Month!

I thought we could celebrate on the blog with adoption-related posts and a book giveaway for my upcoming middle grade novel, RED BUTTERFLY (which releases in Feb, 2015 ... just a few months away!)

This last month marked a very important anniversary in our family: Olivia's Gotcha Day!

What is a Gotcha Day?

A Gotcha Day is a little like a birthday, but it marks the day when an adoptive family GOT their adopted child. Some families celebrate on the day their adoption was made official, but most families celebrate the day their child was placed in their arms or in their custody.

Since our adoption was unorthodox, the day we brought Olivia home was six and a half years before we completed her adoption, so we celebrate the day I brought her home from the orphanage. She was six weeks old.

This is the first picture I took of Olivia at six weeks, from her baby album. 

How do families celebrate Gotcha Days?

Every family is different. We have one main tradition in our family, and that is the making (and consuming) of Whoopie Pies. A delicious tradition, let me tell you. We decided not to make the Gotcha Day exactly like a birthday -- for instance, we don't give gifts. But sometimes we do have family come to join us for the Whoopie Pie dessert. And we always tell Olivia's adoption story, usually over dinner or Whoopie Pie-eating. We make sure Olivia knows how thankful we are that God placed her in our family! 

Olivia's thirteenth Gotcha Day!
If you'd be interested in winning a hardcover copy of my middle-grade novel, RED BUTTERFLY, leave a comment below. I'll leave the giveaway open all through November to celebrate Adoption Month, so spread the word! Winners will receive their books in February, after the official release.

If you do spread the word on social media, leave me an extra comment and I'll give you an extra entry. Thank you!

Quick & Easy Tweets:

Enter @alsonnichsen's #RedButterfly giveaway to celebrate #Adoption Month in November! http://tinyurl.com/nvg4gp7

It's #Adoption Month! Celebrate by entering @alsonnichsen's #RedButterfly giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/nvg4gp7

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Dream

Anna didn't make a national team.

Which made her a little sad, but, you know, she's eight. Lots of time for getting even more awesome at gymnastics, right?

The amazing thing is this:

As we were walking together, alone, on the way to pick up Naomi from preschool, I asked her if it was worth it.

"All the summer testing meets, all the fundraising, all the two-a-day practices ... Do you want to keep doing this? I mean, I know you did your best down in Texas, so what if you go to testing every year for all three years and your best is never good enough? Will it be worth it?"

She didn't hesitate. "Yes!"

I took a deep breath. Okay. One step at a time. My mama brain so often wants to go into overdrive when I think about the future.

"Because, Mom," she went on, "if I keep working really hard, maybe next time my best will be the best."

Just a little reminder on a Monday morning for all of you out there pursuing a dream. xo

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back from Karolyi Ranch

We got back from Houston yesterday. What a fun trip we had! Anna did a great job testing, so now we're waiting a few weeks for the results. 

I don't have high expectations. I'm just glad she had fun, showed her best to the judges, and that we got to experience the Karolyi Ranch with our friends. What a cool place! 

Here are a few pictures:

Handstands at the Walk of Fame, Karolyi Ranch


The girls and their coaches
Right before testing: Anna covered her face in sparkles, which is why she looks slightly alien-like. 

I also got to have dinner with my dear friend and critique partner, Kristin Rae (author of the YA, WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN). Her six-week-old baby, Layla, is soooo adorable! We had a blast and even conspired together over secret projects. (So excited!!) 


Monday, October 6, 2014

Krista's cover! ...and Gymnastics News

Last week, my good buddy Krista revealed the cover for her gorgeous MG debut, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING. 

I am in love with this cover! What do you think? I'm so excited for this book to come out. I got to read an early version, but I know Krista has worked on it a ton since then.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love. 

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING will be out in May of next year. In the meantime, you can pre-order wherever books are sold.  


In other news, I leave with my daughter Anna for Texas on Friday so she can participate in National Gymnastics Testing at the Olympic Training Center. Exciting times! Please pray for us, that we have peace and safety in our journey, and that Anna stays healthy and uninjured for testing. THANK YOU!

Anna and her teammates. She's far right. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Heart with my Homeland

Hong Kong, the city where I lived for thirteen years growing up, is in turmoil. Students and other protesters have taken to the streets to decry Beijing's decision to allow them only a shadow-version of universal suffrage. Beijing wants to approve candidates for Hong Kong's head honcho, the chief executive, before Hong Kong people get a chance to vote. Hong Kong people aren't happy about that.
This is a good article if you're looking for more information about the dispute:


I love Hong Kong.

I cried the day it was handed back to China in July, 1997. At that point, I wasn't sure what was best for Hong Kong. British rule had certainly proved prosperous for Hong Kong, but money isn't everything. I knew there were undercurrents of racism that tainted the territory thanks to its colonial status. Communism scared a lot of people, including me. Could China be trusted to stick to its agreement not to interfere with Hong Kong for fifty years? And after fifty years, what then? I cried because of change. The future was hazy. I didn't want to lose my home as I remembered it.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. I haven't lived in Hong Kong since I left for college, but I visited my parents and sister there. As a visitor, daily life seemed untouched. It was the same mesmerizing, fast-paced city in which I'd grown up ... with a lot more mainland Chinese people on the streets and in the theme parks. That part didn't bother me too much. I lived in mainland China for eight years of that time, and I actually appreciated being able to use my Mandarin skills on the streets. But I could sense the frustration from Hong Kong people and even understand it. Mainland people flooded Hong Kong, buying up apartments and supplies. Hong Kong people didn't appreciate the rise in this kind of "tourism." They wanted their city back.

And now this. Beijing acts like a controlling grandfather. "What am I doing wrong? I'm giving them universal suffrage, like they want! If I want to screen their candidates first, what's wrong with that? I want someone as chief executive who loves Hong Kong, loves China.... (Because obviously, Hong Kong people can't be trusted to find that kind of person for themselves.)"

In an ideal world, I'd love Beijing to take a step back and leave Hong Kong alone. Hong Kong doesn't need (or apparently want) to be controlled. But of course, China won't leave Hong Kong alone. Capitalism has worked well for Hong Kong, but the city wouldn't be part of China if it had democracy to go with it.

I feel terribly sad for everyone on the streets--the students, the other protesters, even the policemen who are vainly attempting to maintain order. The police and protesters are clashing, not necessarily because they disagree, but because the protesters are out on a mission to disobey, to shut down commerce, to make a point, and that goes against law and order. It's an inevitable run-in. Should police be using tear gas to disperse the crowds? No. But I think we should be thankful at this point the PLA hasn't been called in, and hope China knows better than to repeat a Tiananmen Square-type crack down in Central.

My mom told me yesterday that the protests were spreading to Kowloon Peninsula. I don't know how this can end well. I desperately want peace, but I want democracy for Hong Kong, too. They've tasted what political freedom feels like. Once that happens, going back under a Communist yoke must feel intolerable.