I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Five Qs with Debut PB Author Traci Huahn = Happy Book Birthday to Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School

May 7, 2024

Happy Book Birthday to Traci Huahn‘s debut picture book, Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School: Based on a True Story (Illus. Michelle Jing Chan / Crown Books for Young Readers )!

I’m excited and honored to feature this book on the blog.

And we have questions!

Q 1. Congratulations on your debut picture book! I learned in your bio that you are the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Can you share what inspired you to write about this important –and little known — time in California history? 

Traci Huahn: Thank you – it’s exciting to celebrate the release of the book on your blog! I’m a former lawyer and first learned about Mamie Tape while doing research on Asian American civil rights cases.

Even though I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where all the events around Mamie’s case took place, and, like Mamie, am the daughter of Chinese immigrants, I’d never learned this history. That was really surprising to me and, because of that, her story stuck in my mind as something more people should know about.

ED note: I completely agree, Traci!

Traci Huahn: I sat on the idea for a while, but when the pandemic hit and anti-Asian hate was on the rise, I really felt compelled to write this book and share her story with young children.

Interior art by Michelle Jing Chan from Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School: Based on a True Story written by Traci Huahn (Crown Books for Young Readers )

Revisions and Publication

Q 2. How many revisions did your manuscript go through before you sent it on submission? Can you give us some details?

I probably did more than thirty revisions of this manuscript before it ever landed with my editor! I wrote my first few drafts in third person, but they weren’t having the emotional resonance that I was looking for. One of my critique partners suggested I write it in first person, so I gave it a try. Originally, I thought I’d just do that as an exercise and then switch back to third person, but I started connecting with the story in that voice, and so did everyone else who read it, so I kept going with it.

After I’d done a handful of revisions, I felt like I needed some kind of throughline to weave together the pieces of Mamie’s story and all the steps she had to take fighting to get into school. That’s when I thought of using the phrase “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” as a refrain. I have a bookmark engraved with that saying, which is a well-known proverb from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, so it had been in my conscience a long time. To me it poignantly sums up not only Mamie’s journey, but that of the countless others who collectively fought for and continue to fight for equality.

Early in the revision process, I also had the good fortune to win a critique from the amazingly talented and generous Barb Rosenstock, whose feedback helped me bring my manuscript to the next level.

More than One Path to Publication

Traci Huahn: Interestingly, this story never went on submission, as I wasn’t agented at the time. But I did submit it for an editor critique as part of the Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Conference, where it ended up with my now-editor, Phoebe Yeh. Instead of giving me a critique, she asked if she could share it with her team and that led to my publication offer! So for any writers out there who aren’t agented, don’t give up hope – there’s more than one path to publication!

Illustration Surprises

Q 3. Were there any surprises from the illustrator, Michelle Jing Chan?

Traci Huahn: One surprise I love is that Michelle included the Tape family’s two dogs in the illustrations. Mamie’s father, Joseph Tape, was an avid bird hunter and had two hunting dogs. I had compiled a visual research document to help Michelle with the historical accuracy of the art and had included an old photo of Mamie’s dad standing next to the dogs. I thought it would be fun to include them, but didn’t know what Michelle and our Art Director, Jan Gerardi, would decide. So when the early sketches came in, it was exciting to see they were there! I especially love how one of the dogs is peeking out the window in the front end pages. I think having the dogs in the art adds a bit of levity to the serious topic that this book addresses, so it’s a really wonderful touch.

Interior art by Michelle Jing Chan from Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School: Based on a True Story written by Traci Huahn (Crown Books for Young Readers )

Using Mamie Tape’s story in the Classroom

Q 4. How might teachers and librarians use this book in the classroom? Are there some books you might pair this with?

Traci Huahn: I have a free Educator’s Guide available on my website (https://www.tracihuahn.com/educator-s-guide) and hope educators will find it useful for engaging kids in deeper learning about the book. It has lots of discussion questions, activities and writing exercises that expand on the book’s themes, and a few touch points for broadening the learning even further.


The book has many intersecting themes, so can be used in lots of ways–it really teaches a piece of our collective American history, but can also be used to teach more specifically about Asian American history, women’s history, changemakers, school rights and the fight for desegregation, and more general themes of courage and determination.

Book Pairings

I also hope educators will use Mamie Tape Fights to go to School alongside other books about school rights and desegregation. I think it’s important for kids to see how the eventual desegregation of schools was a collective effort by many people of different backgrounds and over many many years.

A few picture books that come to mind are:

  • Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • When the Schools Shut Down: A Young Girl’s Story of Virginia’s “Lost Generation” and the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Decision, written by Yolanda Gladden and Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, illustrated by Keisha Morris
  • Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation and the Case of Roberto Alvarez, written by Larry Dane Brimner, illustrated by Maya Gonzalez.
  • And, of course, there are several books by and about Ruby Bridges.
Interior art by Michelle Jing Chan from Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School: Based on a True Story written by Traci Huahn (Crown Books for Young Readers )

Be a Changemaker!

Q 5. What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?

Traci Huahn: I hope readers, and especially young children, will be inspired to become changemakers, in whatever way that shows up for them. I also hope they’ll come away with the message that even though change often comes slowly, especially in terms of social justice and equality, every little step counts and helps move us forward, so we’ve got to keep up the fight!

Thank you so much for joining us on the blog today, Traci.

Happy Book Birthday!

To learn more about Traci Huahn and her work,

see her web site: tracihuahn.com

and follow her on social media:

IG @tracihuahn

Twitter/X @tracihuahn

Let’s celebrate AAPI (Asian & Pacific Islander) Month

ALL YEAR, friends.

Up next: WALKIES: A DOG’S TALE by Estrela Lourenço (Page Street Kids).

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