Sunday, January 27, 2008


There's a shop a few doors down from us, in the middle of the block. They don't have an American name, but they're easy to spot.

They sell every type of red envelope that you could imagine. I remember when I was a kid, the types of hong bows (red envelopes) that you could get were very limited. Now they make everything from Hello Kitty hong bows to hong bows with your Chinese name. The envelopes vary in price depending on size & quality.

You can also find festive Chinese New Year items like Chinese good lucks signs, paper firecrackers and lion dancer puppets.

I like the paper firecrackers although they make quite a mess. Check it out!

This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Rat. People born in the year of the rat are known to be leaders that are driven in life by their passion and charisma. They are known to be the most organized and systematic people of all of the zodiac signs.

So what's going on in Chinatown for the New Year? The Flower Market was something that I've enjoyed a lot. This will be it's 5th year and it takes pace in Columbus Park (located on Mulberry Street; cross streets are Bayard and Worth).

This event is relatively new and each year it gets better and better. They sell lots of beautiful flowers that people buy to decorate their homes for the New Year. The word for "flower" in Chinese resembles the word for "wealth". They're one of the many lucky symbols people adorn their homes with to ring in the New Year.

There will be artists and performers there. It's a really great family event and it helps draw people into Chinatown.

Dates for the flower market:
Saturday Feb 2, 2008 (12pm-10pm)
Sunday Feb 3, 2008 (12pm-5pm)
Monday Feb 4. 2008 (2pm-8pm)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

SATURDAYS IN CHINATOWN-Why I decided to write the book

So what inspired me to write a children's book? When I was in graduate school, I studied elementary education. My professor gave us the task of compiling lists of good multicultural children's literature. Because I'm of Asian descent, I went off to find "good" pieces of children's literature which had Asian American protagonists.

Much to my dismay, I found that there weren't very many good pieces of children's literature that had Asian American heroes. I brought this up to my professor who was actually the chair of the program and she herself was surprised. Nobody had ever brought this issue to her attention.

Although the world of children's literature has great books that represent "diversity", Asian Americans are often left out. The issues & experiences of different minority groups greatly differ from one to the next.

The books I did find were often not written by Asian authors. They often resembled bulky textbooks and were not very attractive to children or even for adults. The ones that were attractive often took place in some distant place that the average Asian American child would not be able to relate to. For example, I found one book that took place in a Japanese internment camp in the U.S. and another that took place in China where the characters were all wearing traditional attire.

In my graduate career, I was not only one of the youngest graduates in my class, but I was also one of the few Asians in the field. My Professor told me that it was my duty to create a children's book. I casually laughed it off and said, "I can't draw.". Professor Z. told me that shouldn't stop me. Guess what... It didn't.

Growing up, my favorite picture book was about a boy in China that played with his panda bear. I can't remember the name of the book or what it was exactly about, but it was my favorite because the boy resembled what I looked like. I had never been to China, and neither had my parents.

My father was also instrumental in getting me moving on this project. Even years after graduation, he would cut out articles or pictures of other successful children's books. He would say things like, "Look at this. This book is about this stupid little mouse and it sold 10 million copies. The mouse isn't even cute!"

In the end, Saturdays in Chinatown was finished. It's a story about a boy from the suburbs who makes his weekly trip to Chinatown. He goes to Chinese school to learn Chinese, plays in the park with his friends and runs errands with his family.

He wears jeans and sneakers. The "Chinatown Kid" , you will find to be the typical "American kid". We are after all American. I wanted to break down the stereotypes that are often associated with Asian Americans. I thought what better way than at a child's age?

The book is finally for sale. Available in the CICF shop and will be on our website shortly.

Other locations that are carrying our book or will be carrying our book:


Queens Dance Project

East Meets West

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Greater Chinatown Community Association (GCCA)

My good friend Jean introduced me to this fabulous woman, Kendra Lee. Jean knew that both of us worked in the Chinatown area and decided to connect the two of us. Kendra has just recently become the new executive director of the Greater Chinatown Community Association.

Although, I am involved in the community, I didn't know what the GCCA was about. Luckily upon meeting Kendra, she immediately offered me a tour of their location on Mosco street.

Mosco street is tiny and their location is tiny. Despite the size of their staff and location, the GCCA is able to touch the lives of so many members of our community. I was very impressed. I can see that their secret is the heart behind the organization. Everyone who either works or volunteers their, exudes such a positive and giving aura.

So what exactly does the GCCA do? I'm going to put it all out there, since I was once in the dark about this as well:

(1) They help inform members of the community about what benefits or social services they may be able to get. This includes social security information, food stamps, etc.

(2) The GCCA sponsors events for the community.

(3) They operate a free medical office three times a week. This is primarily for people that are uninsured or dependent on Medicaid or Medicare. Acupuncture /Massage therapy and Chinese slow motion Tai Chi exercises are offered to individuals with chronic illness and pain.

(4) GCCA offers adult education classes that include ESOL, computer training, and civics/government classes. These classes help them to prepare for their citizenship interview. Computer classes often help them to qualify for better jobs.

Although the GCCA has been helping community members for over 30 years, I can tell that it has much more growth ahead of them. I'm glad to see Chinese youth like Kendra, coming back to help our community. I admire her enthusiasm and hard work and I am sure that it will take the organization far.

More information can be found at