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This is Not My Home by Eugenia Yoh and Vivienne Chang

Eugenia Yoh and Vivienne Chang share This Is Not My Home (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), a humorous and heartfelt reverse immigration story that will resonate across cultures and show us how a place can become home.


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About the book: This Is Not My Home by Eugenia Yoh and Vivienne Chang



A humorous and heartfelt reverse immigration story that will resonate across cultures and show us how a place can become home.


This is not my backyard barbecue.


This is not our car, these are not my fireflies.


This is not my farmer's market and...


This is not my home.


When Lily's mom announces their family must move back to Taiwan to take care of her elderly Ah Ma, Lily is devastated to leave behind her whole life for a place that is most definitely not her home. But Lily soon realizes, through the help of her family and friends, what home means to them. And perhaps someday--maybe not today, but someday--it might become her home too.


Episode Transcript:


INTRO


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, a writer, and a fan of kids. 


It’s year 11 of the podcast if you can believe. The show is now as old as the oldest students I teach in our elementary school. My goodness! What a ride!


This year I’m returning to form. I loved the challenge of making a kids book podcast just for kids and that’s why I spent all of 2023 doing exactly that. But I feel compelled to return to my “why” and to continue platforming notable children’s book authors and illustrators on how and why we make books for kids. 


Today I’m excited to bring to you an interview with Eugenia Yoh and Vivienne Chang, author and illustrator of This Is Not My Home from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.


But first, I’m excited to welcome our returning sponsor: The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge! 


Picture book authors need to be prolific to get published. That's why members of 12 x 12 aim to write one picture book draft a month. With a private Forum, monthly webinars, a thriving Facebook group and more, members enjoy the support of a welcoming community of authors and illustrators while working toward their publishing goals. Registration is only open in January and February. Visit 12x12challenge.com/winner for more information.


Okay. So, today’s book. This Is Not My Home is a humorous and heartfelt reverse immigration story that will resonate across cultures and show us how a place can become home.


Let’s step into my conversation with Eugenia and Vivienne.


INTERVIEW


Eugenia: Hello, everyone. I am Eugenia Yoh, and I am the co author slash illustrator of This Is Not My Home. I just graduated college, so it's super fresh in mind, and I'm currently in the Bay Area working at Chronicle Books as a junior designer.


So making picture books is my dream job.


Vivienne: Hi everybody! My name is Vivienne. I am the other co creator of This Is Not My Home and Eugenia's Best Friend. Well, I would like to think that we are best friends, and I'm actually still a college student! I'm about to graduate, well, on the day of this podcast's recording, in three weeks, which is crazy!


But unfortunately, I will not be working for a picture book company when I grow up. I'll be working for a bank, but I'm excited to write picture books on the side as well! 


Matthew: I know a fair number of picture book authors that do very different other things. I feel like that's That's a norm. But Eugenia, I did not, I did not know that you're over at Chronicle.


That's wonderful. I have a lot of friends over at Chronicle and I've had a number over the years. That's, that's wonderful to know that you're there. So, okay. I'll start with you, Vivienne. Where's your home and has it always been your home? 


Vivienne: Yeah, that's a fantastic question.

I feel like I've moved at least two or three times every year. I was in the Bay Area, which is where my family is. I'm in college now in St. Louis. I studied abroad in London last year and I'm actually moving to New York post graduation, did a summer internship there. So I, my home has changed a lot. Even when I'm in St. Louis, I change where I live every single year because of my lease. And so I used to think of home as a specific place. St. Louis, Bay Area, New York. But now I think that my home is where my family and my friends are. So wherever they are in the world, that is where I consider as home. And I think that this is a pretty new definition for me, actually.


I think when people used to ask me where my home is, I would be like, Oh, my home is 3700 Cherokee Street, Fremont, California. But that's what I realized is where my house is. You know, when my parents are not home in my house, it doesn't really feel like a home. And I think that's only recently when I have began to appreciate my friends and my family more have I realized that my home is just where my people are.


Matthew: Eugenia, where's your home? And has it always been your home? 


Eugenia: Yeah, no, that is a really fantastic question. I love, love, love Vivienne's response because I feel very similarly. I was born in Southern California, I went to St. Louis for college, and then I came back to the Bay Area, or back to California, now in the Bay Area, um, to work.


And I realized that home for me is when I have Um, if I ever break down in a small mental crisis and I can go to someone's house and complain about life a little bit or just have someone to comfort me, home is where my parents are and we drive home late at night and um, I know Viv and I share a similar memory where the siblings will fall back asleep on the passenger seat and our parents will be driving us and we have that sense of stability and comfort.


Home is when you can go to a restaurant and say, I would like this and the people start making or the restaurant workers start making your your, um, your meal before you even, um, have to say anything because they're so used to you just coming every Friday to this burrito shop. So I think home is just familiar.


Vivienne: I agree. I think home is also the small instances as well. I love what you said, Eugenia. It's home is like also sleeping on the passenger seat, on the car, on the drive, on a long drive home. 


Matthew: I love that so much. It's wonderful to think that at different points in our life, home is more of feeling, not a place.


I like that you're bringing that out. And when you shared about sleeping on the passenger seat, I, I can't help but feel my memories of not just falling asleep in the car, often driving home from my grandparents house, but also my, when I was very young, my mom or dad carrying me in and putting me in bed when it was late.


You're really activating a memory in me. Vivienne, you, you named, when you introduced this book to me, you named a phenomenon that I was aware of, but didn't know it by name. And so I'd love to ask you to share with us what is reverse immigration? Uh, and I'd love to know for the, uh, I would love to know, but also for our listeners, Why did you choose to center on reverse immigration?

For this is not our home. It's not my home. 


Vivienne: Yeah, that's a fantastic question. So actually, we made up the phrase reverse immigration. I don't think that this phrase is well known. This is the first time that we really heard this phrase and that we actually coined this phrase reverse immigration. And reverse immigration is the idea where, you know, maybe your parents or your grandparents had moved from different countries to the United States or to the Western world so they could move from Asia or to Europe to the Western world to the US or Canada, but for different reasons or different circumstances.


You, our generation now, or their kids, needs to now move from our homeland in the western area of the world back to Asia and Europe and wherever. So that's like kind of the phenomenon of the reverse immigration. There was once an immigration, but now it's kind of reversing that immigration with the next generation.


And we decided to choose this concept because, well, one, I think it's a really interesting concept. We don't talk a lot about like where people, like when people have to move back to their hometowns, you know, like back to their motherland. We mostly just talk about the first wave, you know, like the first wave of immigration.


But it's interesting to then think about, like, how does this immigration moving back to your mother's land, your grandmother's land, your dad's land, your grand, your granddad's land, and how does that actually make us feel? And this also kind of like, um, is similar to the reason why we decided to write this book.


So both Eugenia and I had friends who moved from Canada and America back to Taiwan, even though their parents immigrated from Taiwan to the U. S. and to Canada, and we thought that their experiences of learning about their mother's homeland is really interesting because for me and Eugenia, we have very fond memories of Taiwan.

You know, the food is great, the people are great, everything is great. But for our friends, when they first went to Taiwan, they hated Taiwan at first. And we were like, how does this even happen? You know, like this is supposed to be the land of good food. How can you hate the land of good food? And we realized when you adopt a place as home or when you immigrate there, that's a very different experience from when you're a tourist there, like me and Eugenia.


So our friends really had to think about Taiwan as their home versus me and Eugenia when we visit Taiwan. It's a very temporary experience. 


Matthew: It, it, it brings out. Just a personal connection that I've taught many, many students who go for, for nearly, at least the, the number that I'm coming to my, my mind, who, a number of them go for nearly the entire summer back to India, um, specifically to India and those families that, that's certainly not reverse immigration, but is a long enough stay. 


I feel that it's not a vacation. You're going and spending real time there. And in some cases they will go a month before school ends and actually end up telling me, Oh yeah, we, I had to go to school there for a month or I had to do whatever cause their schooling time is different.


And. Yeah. Uh, it's a, it's a, it's a, you, it that opened my eyes to these different experiences individuals have, but it's also making me realize, oh, your book is going to bring out so many stories of children going, I didn't do exactly this, but it, but it looked like this in my family, and this is how it made me feel, and I.


That's just a really, really neat thing that you're offering to your readers. And also, Vivienne, I started out our conversation with wordsmithing, and here you are telling me that you wordsmith this wonderful new phrase that That's true! That is exactly what it is, so I just assumed it was from the ether that I hadn't heard about yet.


Vivienne: That's great. No, when we were thinking about this book, we were like, what do we call this idea? Because it's not like immigration. It's not like normal type of like immigration, where when we think about immigration, it's like you're chasing the American dream. You're chasing the Western dream. But this is actually in a way, like it's a reverse of that.


So then we coined it as reverse immigration. 


Matthew: It makes sense. The, the naming convention makes perfect sense. It's just, it's funny to think, Oh, we didn't quite have a name. We would have just calling it immigrating again, which doesn't quite capture emotionally what this is. Um, Eugenia, I, I would love to know, I know Vivienne was hinting at it a little bit about you both meeting, connecting, but I, I have made books with friends, or rather I have a graphic novel series I've made with a friend.


Um, and I, I know that that's a really special thing to choose to create together. I have worked with teachers where we've become maybe lifelong collaborative partners because we found we could speak the same language in creating together. I'd love to ask you to share from your voice how you and Vivienne met and, and just what.

What brought you into that space of creating things together? 


Eugenia: Oh, I feel like we've detailed the story so many times that it's kind of become like a little bit of an urgent, uh, urban legend in a way, um, where Vivienne and I first met, we were in the same college together, we did a lot of the same extracurriculars, but, um, I didn't really care much for her, I was like, I have my own group of friends, I don't need Vivienne, but Vivienne was very much like, I definitely want to be friends with Eugenia, I feel like we'd get along very well.


Um, but the iconic night was, um, we went to an all you can eat buffet, and I, all I can ate, as one does at, in this situation, um, got a terrible, terrible stomach ache and was crouched on Vivienne's dorm in a fetal position, and Vivienne's here feeding me a bit of medicine, and so I was like, ah, you know what, maybe, maybe she can be my friend, and so we kind of hit it off after that.


That's how the story goes. But I think beyond that, Vivienne is someone who's everything I'm not. She's very confident and so, so good at sending emails. I am very, very shy with those types of stuff. And so, um, while I can try to curate a very good story and I can illustrate, um, I learned so much from Vivienne and I'm sure she learned a lot from me.


And so for this reason, I think we're very good collaborators. Um, while we have very different skill sets, we also. Uh, communicate in a very similar way, just the way that we think about things. We both feel emotions very intensely and have a need to, um, sort of express it visually. And so I feel like despite our major personality differences and our skill sets, we come together and are able to make a really cool project together.


Matthew: So when Vivienne started off introducing and saying Eugenia is my best friend, it's just making, it's just wonderful. Thank you for sharing that origin story. It's really wonderful. It's a good story. Oh, 


Vivienne: yeah. Eugenia, I always, every time we visit an elementary school, I'm like, Eugenia, are we best friends? And Eugenia's like, 


Eugenia: hmm.


Matthew: We need a sizzle reel of all of those. That's adorable. Or maybe that's the next book. Are you my best friend? Boy, what a complicated. Are you my best friend? That's therapy. You don't need to dig into that. But you know, it is a real childhood and maybe adulthood experience of feeling. It is! Feeling a different.


I know that I'm a person that trusts big and trusts quickly. It's part of my. It's part of what protects me. It's like my security, right? Is that I want to trust people right away and feel loved and feel cared for. Um, and so I am sure not that I'm putting this on you, Vivienne, but I am sure that I would be like, Eugenia is my best friend, right?


She must be. She hangs out with me and helps me and talks to me. Um, I know that I've had that with like my work besties before where I'm like, I don't know if you think about me this much, but I think about you this much. And I'm really glad that I have the safety net. 


Vivienne: Oh, I feel that so much. Yeah. I always, I'm like, you, Jeannie, are we best friends?


Like, yeah, like we must be, we wrote a whole book together. How are we not best friends? And she still is like. So, you know what? Maybe that's actually a really good, that's actually a very good story. Are you my best friend? 


Matthew: The more we talk about it, the more complicated. I'm like, that's a pretty complex question to ask.


And kids go through it, right? We see kids arguing all the time. We're getting off topic. So sorry, this won't be on the recording, but it is being a person that's in front of children. Constantly, I just see it over and over and over and over in, especially that like K 1, 2 grades, those younger grades where they're trying to figure out like, how do I fit into this space?


Uh, and then feeling betrayed when, well I thought we were friends and my definition of our friendship looks like this, looks exclusive like this, so what does it mean when you seem to be having the same emotions as somebody else. Yeah. 


Vivienne: That's a great story idea. Oh my god. 


Matthew: But for this story, Vivienne and Eugenia, I'd love to ask you, going into this, you had any kind of readers in mind?


It very much just might be As you said, you were thinking about your friends that were having this experience. Certainly when you, we write for children, we don't need to have a child or children in mind. Sometimes we're just writing, talking to our childhood self or something like that. But, uh, if you did have any, uh, type of reader in mind, I'd love, I'd love for you to share.


Vivienne: Actually, I think the reader that I had in mind when writing This Is Not My Home and creating This Is Not My Home was actually moms and parents and grandmothers and grandfathers everywhere. I think I wanted to make the adult, and I think maybe Eugenia would agree with me on this, I think we want, we both really want to make adults cry and adults feel things because oftentimes adults kind of, you know, shelter their feelings and emotions a little bit.


And I think that like when, for example, in our book, we have this kind of plot twist where she's like, well, yeah, like her mom is like, yeah, well, Lily, this is not your home, but this is my home. And I think like that's the plot twist that, you know, we see a lot of adults cry very often when we go to book events and stuff like that.


And so I think that, yeah, when I actually wrote this about my home, I wanted to like give it to the parents, the moms and the dads out there who have to experience this reverse immigration story. 


Eugenia: Yeah, no, I think Vivienne pretty much tackled my mission statement, making adults cry. I feel like it is such a universal story because there are very few words.

So kids, I know there's a scene where there aren't any words. They look, she'll look at the pictures very, very slowly and evaluate very closely. Um, I feel like there are parts that kids can really connect to, it's extremely short in terms of there's not a lot of words, but also the emotions that Lily is feeling throughout the entire story are very kid oriented.


Um, and then there are parts for adults too, so I feel like it's a universal story for all ages, but also secretly to make the adults cry.


Matthew: Well, yeah, I mean, Lily rejects this new place without realizing it and we can. It's forgivable, but we can cause this feeling as a child that we are insensitivity because we're trying to protect self can, can be othering to our grownups.


And in this case, Lily's insistence that this place wasn't her home was, was missing the bigger question of, well, whose home is it? It's your, it's your mom's home. And sharing that is. is, can be, and is a gift. And it's beautiful that the way you, you end the book is that it is that shared space, because as you both opened up in the beginning, home is that place with the people that you love and care about.


Um, yeah, I would love to ask you both if you could read aloud to us and, and certainly talk about the art as well, because it is a, it is a non visual medium podcast over here. But, um, I will say, I will say, Eugenia, that I love, um, well, and Vivienne, with the structure that you lay out these things that Lily loves about her home, um, and then you echo that really two more times, and here is the things that I don't like about this new place.


Um, that reflect the things I do like about original home. But then again, Lily comes to like those things. So there's just It is that We as humans really love that rule of three. It's just a thing that works for humans. But it also, in this case, um, really shows a beautiful transformation that the same things you're naming that you don't like become the things that define home for you.


So kudos on that, that story structure. Uh, I think that's, that's the thing that makes us all want to cry. All of us.


Vivienne: Yeah, no, actually, I'm so glad you pointed this out. Um, we worked really hard on trying to figure out the three parallels in our book from the not something, and so this is not something, but this is like what the reality is, and then versus like the now alternative.


So I'm really happy that you resonate with that. Um, I think there are two parts of the book that I really resonate with. I already talked about this before, but my favorite line in the book is, Um, like, I'm sorry, I know this is not your home, but this is mine, which is showing a picture of Lily's mom hugging Lily.


And I think that this is a really powerful page to me because, like we mentioned before, when, like, for example, when someone is moving somewhere, it's a very personal experience and oftentimes we just think about ourselves, especially for kids, right? It's a very like, I, like, I don't like this, I don't like that, like, this is not for me, this is not, this, I don't want to do this.


Um, but we forget that there's so the bigger picture surrounding our move and one of the pictures is how your parents like are taking this move they when they see your discomfort they're also uncomfortable as well and so I think that this is a good reminder when Eugenia proposed this phrase originally um as this page for our quote I was like immediately yes like this is the correct like I had no doubt in my mind that this is what this page was supposed to be, so I really appreciate this page for opening up a new perspective.


But I think another page that I really love is where we have these three panels of this is not our car, which is where Lily's being squished together with the motorcycles, and then these are not my fireflies, where Lily is sitting on a squatty potty with cockroaches surrounding her, and this is not Jill.


Where she's looking at a picture of, looking at a statue of Buddha. who is all smiley and stuff, thinking this is not Jill, thinking this is not my home. And I think I really like that because it just shows a little bit more humor that we have, that we want to put more in our plot.


Eugenia: Yeah, I know, I am fond of those two pages as well. I feel like, um, the page you chose for humor and the page you chose for like that plot twist are such integral parts of the story. I'm gonna choose one that I don't think I've ever really picked before, but now I'm like, actually, I would like to give this page a bit of attention.


It's the part that she says. This is not my school, and um, it breaks down the day into five different panels, and I think this page, I, when I was drawing it, I was trying to internalize all the feelings of not fitting in, just kind of like a daunting, looming school structure, and like stretching in the wrong way, and then eating lunch that doesn't look like anyone else's lunch, and then Just not being able to fall asleep during naptime and being overwhelmed by all these Chinese words, um, coming out of textbooks.


I feel like that was how I felt so often, um, when I was in Chinese school, I just felt like very, very overwhelmed by all these characters I couldn't understand. And I think this page transitions really nicely to, this is not my home and her feeling super dejected with all these Mandarin characters slanted and tilted in, in diagonal speech bubbles and.

Originally while doing this page, it was, uh, slanted and diagonal, um, and speech bubble because we didn't want the reader to really read this part. It should feel that, um, intense feeling of just being so confused and not fitting in and just incomprehensive. So I think just that as a graphic design choice and, um, the construction of it all just really is like the climax for Lily.


It's the part she really just can't take it anymore. So I thought that was kind of delightful in its own way. 


Matthew: Eugenia, you've made a number of, of really exquisite design choices in this book, including the way that you allow color to tell a story as well. I think about when Lily is frantic about, well, what about these things I love?


What about Jill? What about our car? What about our school, right? But there's these, these sort of almost grayed out things. There's these like muted greens and grays, the page that you shared. Because I turned to it, the, the hue gets darker and darker. It's just the school day. It's not dark at 2 PM, but it's dark there.


It's, it's, um, while it is the carpet in the image, still the framing just feels. more foreboding. Um, yeah, you've just done a number of different choices there that, that feel like they help us go slow. You had mentioned too about a, a wordless page and the chance for readers to read your art. Um, any, any opportunity, I think when the illustrator is helping to sort of control the tempo of the book is really masterful and thoughtful of your readers.


And you both, I think. have put a lot of thought not only into how will a reader connect with this book and see themselves and see others, but also I think you, I can see that you've both asked how will a reader read this book? What will the experience of reading this book be? And I think that that is what makes it so effective.


No, um, no, but really, truly, um, I hope that you've spent a lot of time with your book and I saw on your website, you so wonderfully shared, here's what making a book with the process can look like you shared the timeline. But I also know that sometimes when we work on something for a long time, we can potentially get disconnected from the excitement that we first had with the idea. And so I hope now that the book has been out, and now that you're connecting with readers, you're able to step back with, with pride at what you accomplished and the way that it is already connecting with readers and, and helping some of those readers to really feel seen in their story.

That's great work. 


Vivienne: That is so sweet of you to say. That's so kind of you. Thank you, Matthew. I think this, that means a lot, like, coming from someone who is in the industry, like, really knows the industry, has read a lot of picture books. So that's really, and I feel like I'm so happy that you noticed, like, all of our details.


I think that's so true. We, when we, when we write our books, I think we're thinking about, like, how do we want this book to be read? What are the components that, you know, you might not notice? but will make a difference in your reading experience. And I think that this kind of detail orientedness to our work is why, like, I love working with Eugenia.


It's because we are so in tune with each other in the way that we tell the story. 


Eugenia: Yeah, no, and I am so so grateful because I think you brought up something that I forgot. I remembered when we were first making this book. I was so excited. We want to talk all the time, but now it kind of like excitement's tapered off just a little bit in terms of like, oh my gosh, like now we just have to promote it, which I feel like we want to spend more time creating than trying to push it out. But I love the, just the reminder of like, it is a delightful process. And it is so wonderful to work on a project with a friend like this. 


Matthew: I want to close our, our conversation the way I close all conversations, which is inviting you to be back in front of children. Uh, I will see a library full of children tomorrow morning. Is there any, message that I can bring to them from you? 


Vivienne: I think just keep reading. I think that there's a lot of things that we can learn from books that we can't learn anywhere else. You know, everyone who writes a book brings in a really unique perspective and understanding of their lives and the topics that they write about. They think a lot about this, and because it comes from such diversity, you get to learn a lot more about books, and I think that I don't want You to ever lose your passion, your excitement for reading books, because unfortunately, like when you get to college, you don't have as much time and then you just don't read any books anymore except for picture books like me, but I'm just saying, like, I think everyone should just keep reading books.


I think that would be a wonderful thing to do. 


Eugenia: Um, no, I really like Vivienne's. I was so eager to jump in. I really like Vivienne's advice where it is, it is really just to read so, so much. But I think also one thing I learned is, um, a professor from a program told me to get a life and it seems very harsh, but I agree.


I think in order to create things and be inspired and make really, really good art, or just be able to tell really good stories, you should explore and have lots of experiences. Holding myself in my tiny little room is not going to have the ability to tell incredible stories. So share stories with others, listen to other people's stories, and hopefully Maybe one these days, it'll manifest into something really, really great.


Matthew: Yes. Where can people find you online? Where can our readers find you? 


Vivienne: Yeah, so you can find us and Vivienneandeugenia.com, which is, it's hard to spell, so bear with me. It's V-I-V-I-E-N-N-E and E-U-G-E-N-I-A.com, which will have everything that you'll ever need to know about our book. But you can also find us on Instagram.


So Eugenia is at. Oh you can say your own at Eugenia. 


Eugenia: Vivienne manages my Instagram so I have no idea what it is. I think it's at Eugenia Yoh. 


Vivienne: Yeah, it's at Eugenia Yoh and then if you can reach me Vivienne at V I V I E N E C H X N G and that's our Instagram. But yeah, thank you guys so much for supporting us and having us on this podcast.


OUTRO


Matthew: Thank you to Eugenia and Vivienne for joining me on The Children’s Book Podcast. 


You can pick up your own copy of This Is Not My Home wherever books are found. Consider supporting independent bookstores by shopping through Bookshop.org. You can also use my affiliate link by clicking on the book’s name in our show notes.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/). 


Our music is by Podington Bear. 


Podcast hosting by Libsyn. 


You can support the show and buy me a coffee at www.matthewcwinner.com.


Don’t forget to check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack, if you are a fellow teacher or librarian. It’s the perfect podcast to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities. It’s available wherever podcasts are found.


And on that note…


Be well. And read on.



End Of Episode

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