In this episode, we honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with authors Debbi Michiko Florence and Gita Varadarajan. A former classroom teacher, Debbi is the author of award-winning middle grade novels Keep It Together, Keiko Carter, and Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai, among several other titles.
Debbi is a third-generation Japanese American, who was born in raised in California. She now lives in Mystic, Connecticut, where her upcoming middle grade novel, Sweet and Sour, is set. She talks with host Suzanne McCabe about Sweet and Sour and the summer romance between characters Mai and Zach.
“All of my books star Japanese American main characters,” Debbi says. “It is such an honor to be able to write from my personal experience and background, but [also] to be able to focus on universal things like friendship and those first-crush feelings.”
Later, Gita talks about her upcoming picture book, My Bindi, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan. “The bindi in Hindu culture is considered the third eye,” Gita explains. “It looks inward, and it symbolizes strength, your inner strength.”
Gita earned her master’s degree in literacy education at Teachers College at Columbia University. Born and raised in India, she developed a love of storytelling hearing her grandfather weave fantastical tales. She is currently an elementary school teacher in Princeton, New Jersey.