Fast Facts
1.  Grace Lin was born in 1977 and grew up in upstate New York.  
2.  Both of Grace's parents were Taiwanese immigrants to the United States.

3.  Grace is the middle of 3 sisters.  


4.  Grace now lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband Alex. 
      Her daughter was born in May 2012.


Grace is the daughter of a doctor who specializes in kidney disease and a botanist who became a stay-at-home mom to Grace and her two sisters. 

Grace grew up in an average two-story white house in New Hartford, NY.  Growing up, Grace and her sisters all had Chinese nicknames:  Beatrice was “Lissy,” Grace was “Pacy,” and Alice was “Ki-ki.”

Grace and her family grew up in a town in which they were the only Asian family.  But Grace did not think of herself as different.  Instead she thought of herself as part of majority of those living around her.  That is until a school production of The Wizard of Oz came along.  Like all the other girls in her class, Grace really wanted to play Dorothy and she never thought that her Asian background could prevent her from doing so.  Grace and the other girls practiced constantly on the playground for the upcoming audition by singing "Over the Rainbow." 

Grace's dream of being the school lead did not happen because she didn't even audition.  Instead, when asked to sing for the audition, Grace told the teacher that she didn't want to do it.  This was after a fellow third grader told her, “You can’t be Dorothy. Dorothy’s not Chinese. Dorothy is American.”

Grace sums up her experience by saying, “But I did not feel Chinese. I spoke English, I watched Little House on the Prairie, learned American history, and read books about girls named Betsy and boys named Billy. But I had black hair and slanted eyes, I ate white rice at home with chopsticks, and I got red envelopes for my birthday. Did I belong anywhere?”

Career Thoughts as a Child

When Grace was a child, she dreamed of being a champion figure skater.  She would draw pictures of herself gliding and twirling on the ice.  Although Grace did not achieve her first dream of being a champion on the ice, she soon realized her dream of being artist, illustrator and writer when she noticed that she liked drawing the figure skaters more than she enjoyed being on the ice

Grace's other sisters became scientists like their parents.  But Grace was different...


First signs of a writer...

In the seventh grade, Grace entered a writing contest a won fourth place, which included a $1,000 prize.  Grace's book was called Dandelion Stories and was about talking flowers.  Who came in first place?
Dav Pilkey, future author of the 
Captain Underpants series!


How did Grace learn how to be a children's writer and illustrator?

     - She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1996.  She majored in illustration

       - She worked in a children’s bookstore for a while where she was able to become familiar with the children's writing industry.

       - She attended workshops and conferences about writing so that she could learn as much as she could about her desired career. 

Grace's Big Break

After losing her job, Grace decided to pound the pavement in New York City.  She took her illustrations with her and showed everyone that she came across in the publishing world. 

Not all was easy for Grace, but her breakthrough came in 1998, when Harold Underdown, a senior editor at Charlesbridge in Watertown, MA, outside of Boston, called her.  He loved her illustration titled "The Ugly Vegetables."  His question for her? 

“Do you have a story to go with it?”

Without hesitating, Grace told Mr. Underdown that she of course had a story, although she didn't. 

Within a week, Grace had finished the text of her first book,  The Ugly Vegetables, published in 1999.  This picture book was an American Booksellers Association "Pick of the List" and a Bank Street College "Best Book of the Year."

Grace did not sit by and let her dream fade away.  Instead, she sent out thousands of color copies and postcards of her illustrations.  During this time, although Grace was not getting much interest from publishers, she persisted in showing her work to anyone who would look at it.  She also survived during these lean times by eating a lot of Ramen noodles!

One of Grace's first jobs was actually working for a giftware company where she designed personalized trinkets such as paper plates, confetti, and coffee mugs.  Grace described her job as being one where she was able to contribute to the world's landfiills.  After working for the company for a while, Grace said, “And then, a wonderful thing happened. I lost my job.”


Becoming Asian

In 1995, Grace spent a semester abroad in Rome where she realized that she knew much more about the western world than she did about her own Asian heritage. 

In her life, Grace has traveled to Asia several times, including to Taiwan about 6 times, to Hong Kong once in 2007, and to China in 2008.  Grace used her knowledge about classical works, such as her favorite painting of all time, Starry Night by Van Gogh, to compare and contrast the landscapes that she found in Asia. 

Life Events Shaping Writing

It was really difficult for Grace to watch her husband Robert die from cancer.  But it was also hard for her to see the kids with cancer being pulled on red wagons as they were taken to their treatments at the hospital. 

Grace enjoyed drawing and eventually went to the Rhode Island School of Design where she majored in illustration.  When she was questioned by a professor about why she always drew caucasian characters, she didn't have an answer.  She had never thought before about why she drew only white characters.  Grace would soon travel to Rome where she would begin to embrace her Asian heritage and use this in her writing and illustrations. 

Before Grace began working at the giftware company, her illustrations were noticed by a junior editor in Boston.  Nothing came of this at first, but after she lost her job at the giftware company, this same junior editor, who had since became a senior editor, saw her work again and asked if she had a story to go with it.  She said of course she did and then she ran home to write her very first book:  The Ugly Vegetables

Grace's first husband Robert died from cancer in 2007 when Grace was 35 years old.  The couple met at a bookstore in Harvard Square.  Robert was an architect who worked for architect Frank Gehry before he got sick.  Grace began writing her picture book, Robert's Snow, while her husband was sick.     

In the 3rd grade, Grace really wanted to be Dorothy in the school musical.  She didn't realize that her being Asian might affect how others saw her as this character.  A classmate told Grace that she couldn't play Dorothy because Dorothy wasn't Chinese.  When the teacher asked her to sing for her audition, Grace refused.  She then said she felt stupid for ever thinking that she, an Asian girl, could play Dorothy.   

Grace began working at a giftware company so that she could support herself.  She was designing gift items such as mugs that said, "World's Best Dad."  She eventually lost her job at this company and she later realized it was a positive event in her life because it freed her up (and gave her a severance package) to begin handing out samples of her illustrations once more. Grace used the opportunity to begin pounding the pavement in New York City.  Great things were to come...

Growing up in the northeast, Grace did not know another Asian family besides her own.  Then one day another Asian girl moved to Grace's junior high school:  Alvina Long.  Grace and Alvina would become close friends, which they are still to this day.  Alvina is Grace's current editor at Little, Brown, and Grace also based the character of Melody in The Year of the Rat on her longtime friend. 

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