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'You Are Life' Celebrates Asian-American Communities

By: Sydney Spangler

You are... You are... You are... Every Child is full to bursting with amazing things!

Award-winning picture book author and poet Bao Phi and illustrator Hannah Li remind young readers through lyrical text and fantastical illustrations that who they are and what they love will always be enough.

This picture book is brimming with life, from colorful illustrations to heartfelt affirmations that celebrate the wonderful and complex identity of children of immigrants and refugees. It embraces all that they are--a dancer, a shining light, a K-pop song--and promises that they will never be invisible.

As a member of the Asian American Pacific Islander community, reading "You Are Life" was a powerful experience that reminded me that I'm not alone. The book's arrival comes in the midst of the COVID pandemic, a devastating global event that has also brought anti-Asian violence onto a national stage in the United States. According to a recent report released by Stop AAPI Hate, there have been nearly 11,000 self-reported hate incidents against members of the AAPI community since March 2020. It's disheartening to hear that AAPI communities across the country have experienced enormous amounts of pain and suffering. This is why creative work that uplifts AAPI communities and is made by members within our communities is so essential now more than ever.

According to the author's note, Phi was inspired by the desire to have a glimmer of hope during this time of struggle. He says that we must mark this time, but also, celebrate our lives. "You are Life" does exactly that by combatting negative anti-Asian sentiment by illustrating our multifaceted experiences that extend beyond the boxes we are squeezed into. It's a love poem to Asian Americans, and it's a book every child should read because no matter your background, we all deserve to be seen.

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