Where Are The Books Celebrating Diversity? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

What kind of stories attract book publishers? Sex and tell-all sell books, or if you are an A-list celebrity, reality show star or involved in some kind of scandal, count on getting some kind of book deal. Why? Because their names, plastered in tabloids and social media, that alone can sell books. What about a normal people with no industry ties or a scandal tied to them, can they sell books? Uh, not!

What about children’s literature?  What sells?  Will a picture book about a cat chasing a ball is string sell more books than a picture book that teaches a child about a different country?  Will the cat book sell more than a book about adoption?

What about a housewife who is not on any reality show, can her manuscript submission warrant a second look? Maybe one or two of them could hit it big, especially if it’s about vampires and warlocks. But what about if the housewife wrote about diversity, race, or being mixed-race? Maybe if she is a celebrity she can get published. But, will she be on the best seller list? Only a handful of books on diversity makes it on the best selling list. Publishers need to make money, and in their eyes, only mainstream books sell. That is why publishers hardly publish books about diversity, and because of that, authors are afraid to write them.

How many best selling books that talk about diversity, race, being mixed-race, disabilities, LGBT, adoption, multiculturalism, and other non-mainstream subjects are there? Recent articles written by CNN Reporter, Ashley Strickland and an article in the NY Times, by Walter Dean Myers  talk about the lack of diversity in literature.

This is my story on the trials and tribulations I experienced in the mainstream publishing world. I wrote “I am Flippish!” while I was fighting breast cancer and going through chemo in 2007. It was St. Patrick’s day and my Filipino-Irish son proudly wore a hat that says “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” A mom told my son that he should take the hat off because he doesn’t look Irish. He was upset and asked me if he was Irish. I replied that he is half Irish and half Filipino – he is Flippish! I was very upset with the mom for saying what she said. After the incident, I looked for children’s books that talk about multicultural families at major book stores and I didn’t find any. Oh, there was a book that came close – about mixed animals. No thanks. It didn’t address the issue directly.   I was disgusted by the lack of children’s books that talks about multicultural families.  I immediately saw a need for a book to explain to children why they don’t look like their parent or parents.  “I am Flippish!” was born — a story written exclusively to explain to my children about their mixed heritage.  Later on, I shared my manuscript to my friends who can relate to my story.

After encouragement from my friends to submit my manuscript to be published because of the growing need for books about multicultural families, I finally did 2009. Little by little, the rejection letters trickled in. Here are some of my favorites:
“Thank you for your submission, the material you sent does not meet our current needs or requirements.”
“We did not feel your manuscript was something we could market at this time.”
“Your manuscript won’t resonate with the mainstream audience.”

I get it, there is no demand for a book that talks about ancestry and multiculturalism.  Message received.  The manuscript stayed in my filing cabinet until 2010.

Five years ago, publishers weren’t ready for a book about mixed race family that talks about why the Filipino-Irish boy doesn’t look like his fair skinned Irish American father. They only saw that it’s only about mixed race families and wouldn’t cater to their mainstream audience. When I asked my son’s teacher Eric, (who is Caucasian) to read my manuscript, he saw beyond what the publishers didn’t see. He saw a book that helps children discover and celebrate their ancestries, and teaches them about diversity, acceptance, and tolerance (his words, not mine). Eric told me that it’s too important of a story to keep to myself and I should take the bull by the horns and self-publish. What? Sacrilege! Self-publish my book? Vanity press? Really? The horror of it. Mainstream publishers scoff that self-published books don’t go beyond friends and family customers. Well, guess what, it was the best decision I ever made. “I am Flippish!” went to press in 2011. Three years later and numerous author visits and press later, I have gone beyond “friends and family.” Thanks to social media, “I am Flippish!” received a wonderful reception from teachers, parents, and children from all over the US, and recently, people in Europe such as the UK (Yes, they are fighting the same battle for more diverse books) have purchased my book.

In the past, the voices demanding more diversity in books, television, cinema, and other arts and media outlets are barely heard — a slight whisper. Now, thanks to social media, the world can come together and make one loud demand — enough to be heard. The companies who have been listening and recently jumped on the diversity wagon are Cheerios Honey Maid Coca-cola Stubhub, Old Navy, Macy’s, Banana Republic, and McDonalds, just to name a few. Television shows such as Modern Family, The Mindy Project, and Scandal are wonderful shows that celebrate diversity. Now, if we can only convince publishers to join in and publish more books celebrating diversity… Thanks to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, journalists, social media, bloggers, and communities demanding for more books that celebrate diversity, they just might do that.  We hope.

Author Appearance at Jumpstart Spring Literacy Fair: Saturday, March 8, 2014, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, OC Heritage Museum, Santa Ana, CA


With fellow authors l to r: Cori Gibb, Dennis Yang, Ron Noble, Ryan Afromsky, Leslie Ryan, Shawn Otomo


Author Ryan Afromsky, Cat in the Hat, and me


JFAD Flyer- English copy


Address: OC Heritage Museum, Santa Ana, CA


Reading and Book Signing in Virginia! December 7-8, 2013, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Sweet City Desserts, Vienna VA

Poster Board 12x18
I am so excited to bring “I am Flippish!” to Virginia!  Sweet City Desserts is hosting my reading and signing for both days.  Thank you to my cousin Manuel Tagle and Mitzi Pickard for inviting me and organizing this event. 20% of the sales proceeds will go to Caritas Manila Foundation to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and the earthquake in the Philippines.

There is nothing like having a personally signed book to give to kids for the Holidays.  So get some of your Holiday shopping done, and preorder your personally signed copies of “I am Flippish!”  Please email me at LeslieVRyan@gmail.com to reserve your copies.

SweetCity_logoCMYK-2 copy

Please click image for Sweet City Website

131 A Maple Avenue West, Vienna VA 22180

(703) 938-8188


Will The Real Mrs. Ryan, Please Stand Up?


What’s in a name?  When you hear the name Leslie Ryan, how do you envision what she looks like?  Close your eyes and try to say the name out loud.  What do you see? You see a typical Irish lass, am I  correct?   Or when you hear the names Deborah Yamamoto or Lydia Bolts, what do you see? Would you think one is Asian and the other Caucasian?

Well, my friend Deborah Yamamoto is a fair skinned, red head of Scottish ancestry.  She married a Japanese American named Andy Yamamoto.  She told me that she always gets a look of surprise from people when they meet her for the first time.

What about my husband’s aunt, Lydia Bolts?  She is a petite woman with dark olive skin and black hair, whose family immigrated from El Salvador.  She told me that it wasn’t easy for her in the 1960’s when they got married.  They thought she was the nanny or the housekeeper, and couldn’t be married to my uncle who is Caucasian.  She has many stories to tell.  (Stay tuned for my next blog.)

Leslie Ryan doesn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes nor white skin.  She is a short Filipino American with tanned skin, brown eyes, and black hair – she is me.  I married a blonde haired, blue eyed handsome Irish American, took his last name and became Leslie Ryan.  It has been 13 years since we were married, and we still experience misconceptions and stereotyping based on my name.

If you tell me that when you hear those names I mentioned above you immediately thought Leslie Ryan is Filipina, Cindy Yamamoto is Caucasian, and Lydia Bolts is Hispanic, then you must be lying.  Thirteen years since I changed my last name to Ryan,  I have experienced several misconception on what a Mrs. Ryan should look like.  Here are my top five moments:

5.  Ten years ago, we moved into our home in a neighborhood that wasn’t very diverse. A salesman knocked on my door, and when I opened it, he asked to talk to the lady of the house.  I turned around and yelled “Hey, is the lady of the house in?”  Then I turned back to the guy, and I sweetly replied, “That would be me!” Then I closed the door in his face.  I guess I didn’t look like a homeowner.

4.   My husband and I were in the process of interviewing landscape contractors.  One morning, we had an appointment with the contractor, but  I had to drop off our kids to school and pick up my nanny.  When we got home, my nanny went into the front door first, and I was right behind her.  We were both in the entryway  when I saw that the two male contractors stood up and walked over to greet her and shake her hand.  My husband said, “That’s not my wife.  That’s our nanny.” Whoops! Their red complexions weren’t from working outside all day.  I took the high road and greeted them nicely. I think the guys tried to make up for their faux pas because they answered every question and concerns I had.  Sometimes when it comes to construction talk men usually would look and address their answers to their fellow men even if the questions posed came from a woman.  These guys knew how to get the contract because they looked at me and addressed me with their answers.  I think they knew that even if my husband liked them, I got the last word on whether or not they got the contract.  They had a lot of making up to do after the faux pas. They turned out to be the best contractors we ever hired.   They have always been respectful and went above and beyond to accomplish all my requests.

3.   Twelve years ago, I was on a flight home from Chicago.  I was almost six months pregnant, large as a house, uncomfortable, and dreading the six hour flight home.  With that in mind, my husband bought me a business class seat on United Airlines so that I was comfortable during the flight home.  After I sat down and put my seatbelt on, the flight attendant came over to me, huffed, and asked me in an accusatory tone “Where is Mrs. Ryan?”   By the tone of his voice, he probably thought I was from coach, snuck into Business Class and stole a seat.  If he asked me for my ticket and driver’s license, I probably would have lost my temper.  I politely replied that I was Mrs. Ryan, and the look on the flight attendant’s face was of surprise.  The only thing he said was, “Ohhhh…”  finally understanding how this short, dark, and pregnant woman could be named “Mrs. Ryan.”  He then turned around and marched back into the galley.  He was nicer afterwards.  Or maybe because he looked at my husband’s airline mileage plus status and saw that it was Platinum?   I couldn’t imagine how it was forty to fifty years ago when mixed marriages weren’t as prevalent.

2.   Recently, I had several really large and heavy pots delivered, and when I opened the garage door to let the guy bring the pots in, he asked me where Mr. Ryan was and if I worked for him.  Seriously?  I was even dressed up that day.  I was so annoyed, I made the poor guy move the heavy pots a couple of times.  Then I felt bad and offered him some water.

1.   This is the most recent and most ludicrous incident.  I schedule a one on one tutorial at an Apple store, and when I arrived, I was seated with three other women who were Caucasian. The Apple tutor I was assigned to went to the first woman and asked if she was Leslie Ryan.  She shook her head.  I raised my hand and said, “I’m Leslie Ryan.”  The guy ignored me and went to the second woman and asked if she was Leslie Ryan.  Second woman said, “No.”  He then went over to the third woman, who already shook her head before he asked her.  I was the only one left at the table, and he finally looked at me.  I gave him a look that says I’m the person he was looking for.  I couldn’t resist and asked him, “What, I don’t look like a Leslie Ryan?”  Awkward, right? The rest of the hour was a little disconcerting, to say the least.  Even though this incident happened an hour ago, I still left the store shaking my head in disbelief.

Some of the above incidents happened twelve years ago to just recently.  One would think there would have been progress where people no longer assume what a person looks like based on their name.

What about multiracial children?  My son’s name for example is Sean Patrick Ryan, but he looks more like me.  My husband and I thought it would be cool to give him a full Irish name.  Did we make a mistake by doing that?  Should we have included a Filipino name and hope that they would see he is half?  What is he going to experience when he grows up?  How will he handle situations of misperception and stereotyping?  I can only hope and pray that he doesn’t resent us for giving him that name.  So far, he hasn’t experienced any of this.

How do I teach my children to deal with misperception and stereotyping?  My husband and I discussed this matter, and we decided that the first thing is to make sure our kids have a strong sense of who they are.  As long as they are confident about themselves, nothing can break them.  Incidents like I have experienced will just roll off their backs and afterwards, they can laugh about how ignorant people can be.  The next is to lead by example.  If I get angry and throw a fit over every incident I have experienced, then that is exactly what they will do.  I usually say something funny or use humor.  It diffuses an awkward situation and makes the other party feel dumb.  However, if the situation is not based on ignorance but malice, then I will fight and stand up for what is right.  I pick my battles.  Hopefully my children will learn this as they grow up. I feel that I can’t protect my children forever.  Neither can I control what other people say and do.  All I can do is teach my children to be confident about themselves and try to lead by example.

Our country is the most diverse than it has ever been.   Mixed marriages are prevalent worldwide.  More schools celebrate and teach multiculturalism and diversity.  Parents seek to raise global children.  Traditional and social media often talks about multiculturalism and diversity.  Movies, television shows, and commercials are incorporating multicultural families to get with the times.  At some point in this century, issues like this will be a thing of the past.  One can only hope…


“I am Flippish!” is coming to San Francisco! – Filipino American International Book Festival, October 19-20, 2013, San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch – San Francisco, CA

“I am Flippish!” is coming to San Francisco!

Filipino American authors and artists have come together to share their stories at the second Filipino American International Book Festival.  Hosted by PAWA, a Northern CA based 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization and independent publisher of Filipino American lit.  PAWA’s main goal is to create and encourage literature and arts for the preservation and enrichment of Filipino and Filipino American historical, cultural and spiritual values.

I am honored to be invited by Mrs. Linda Nietes of the Philippine Expressions Bookshop to participate in this wonderful event.  Come to this free event and get your signed copies of “I am Flippish!” and other wonderful books written by my fellow Filipino American authors.  You can find our books at the Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s booth.

This event will be held:

San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch
100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

My assigned schedule at the event is as follows:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

12:30 – 1:30 Fisher’s Children’s Center, 2nd Floor – Reading “I am Flippish!”

2:00 – 3:00 Book signing at Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s table – Table A

Sunday, October 20, 2013

1:00 – 2:00 Book signing at Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s table – Table A

Click Here For More Information About The Filipino American International Book Festival


#mondayblogs #hapa #multiculturalfamilies #biracial #mixeracefamily #filipino #irish #multicultural #kidlit #sanfrancisco


Wilmington Children’s Book Festival, Booth #35, Saturday, October 5, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Banning Residence Museum, Wilmington, CA

I had a wonderful time at the event.  Lots of enthusiastic children sharing their love for books.


This was my second year participating in this fun event. Thank you very much United Way, Tesoro, Valero, and other generous sponsors for making this event possible.

Click here for more information about this fun event


Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s Tent) — 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. Saturday, September 7, 2013, Point Fermin Park, San Pedro, CA

Come join me for a day of Filipino arts and culture.  I will be signing my book “I am Flippish!” at the Philippine Expressions Booth from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  See you there!

Pt. Fermin Park

807 West Paseo Del Mar

San Pedro (Los Angeles), CA

Click Here For More Information

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Philippines Kalayaan 2013 Independence Day Celebration – Saturday, June 8th, 2013, Los Angeles, CA


It was a great fun filled event and cultural pride.



With my fellow authors Giovanni Ortega and Lorenzo Paran, author and publisher of Salamin Magazine.


With Gladys

Amazing dancers

Amazing dancers

The Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) and the PHILIPPINE CONSULATE GENERAL OF LOS ANGELES PRESENTS:

The First ( 115th ) Philippine Independence Day Grand Parade in Historic Filipinotown Los ANGELES

I am very excited to participate in the Philippines Independence Day Celebration on Saturday, June 8th 2013.   Come and support the First Grand PH Independence Parade in Historic Filipinotown.  Philippine Expressions Book Shop is participating in the exhibit and kindly invited Filipino American authors to showcase their books.   I will be signing my book “I am Flippish!” with other Fil Am authors: Myrna de la Paz, Sumi Haru, Marvin Gapultos, Albert Mortiz, Giovanni Ortega, Ludy Ongkeko, Lorenzo Paran, and Jay Wertz.


Saturday, June 8, 2013


Silverlake Medical Center 
1711 W. Temple St., Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles
Parade  9:00 a.m.
Program  11:00 a.m.
I will be signing books under the Philippine Expressions Booth from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
I hope to see you there.  Please help support our Fil-Am authors and make sure you check out their books when you visit the Philippine Expressions Booth.
2ND GEN Kalayaan flyer