5 Exceptional AAPI Authors Reflect On Their Writing Inspirations

Five AAPI authors share their writing experiences with us, discussing everything from the books that inspire them to what they want to say to aspiring AAPI writers.

5x5 Author's Corner Diverse Voices

Before a writer shapes their first word, they are touched, changed, and motivated by the stories they’ve read in their lifetime. Stories are crucial bridges between different communities or even between people in the same community. As the amount of narratives from POC authors in the publishing sphere increases, readers gain more entryways into the worlds and experiences of other people. In this interview, we speak with five AAPI authors who reflect on their writing careers. From seeking solace in books to expressing themselves in their own words, these authors share what they’ve learned from their writing journeys and what they have to say to other AAPI writers trying to find their way.

The Authors

Goldie Chan

Headshot of author Goldie Chan.

Goldie Chan is a global speaker, strategist, writer, and advisor. She was referred to as the “Oprah of LinkedIn” by the Huffington Post and her video channel has won LinkedIn Top Voice. Goldie is the founder of Warm Robots, a social media strategy agency based in Los Angeles with global clients. She writes for Forbes on “Personal Branding and Storytelling in the Digital Age,” where her articles on personal branding are consistently Page 1 ranked and used by educational institutions and in business development. She is a proud member of the Producer’s Guild of America and the New Media Council, is a Stanford University graduate, and has been featured as a fresh voice in The New York Times, CNN, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company. and more.

Rin-rin Yu

Headshot of author Rin-rin Yu.

Rin-rin Yu is a journalist, writer, editor, and photographer who has won many awards for her work. She enjoys writing fiction and creative essays based on her observations and experiences as an American-born Chinese. During the day, she works for Duke University as an assistant vice president in the marketing and communications department. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of publications at Howard University. She is also principal and co-founder of the Silver Media Group, a strategic marketing and content consultancy. Born and raised in the New York City suburb of Scarsdale, Rin-rin currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and two children.

Kevin Kreider

Headshot of Kevin Kreider.

Kevin Kreider left Philly in 2008 to navigate his way in entertainment as a Korean American adoptee. His career started in the fitness industry, when he signed with one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in NYC. In 2014, Kevin was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. He took a few years off, got sober in 2015, and took a leap of faith by moving to Los Angeles. There, he was offered a role in the international hit Bling Empire, Netflix’s first all-Asian and Asian American reality show, the success of which opened up doors for more Asian actors on the platform. Kevin started a production company to bring Asian Lead Love Stories to the world (ALLS Productions). He is the creator of the WEBTOON original Taejin: Legend of the Yang Metal, a modern spin on Asian superheroes inspired by his interest in Chinese Bazi.

Cindy Ng

Headshot of author Cindy Ng.

Cindy Ng, author of Girligami, brings a fresh, fun, and fashionable spin to the traditional art of origami. Born in Hong Kong and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cindy has designed a line of origami kits and jewelry that have been showcased in art museums worldwide, including SF MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Real Simple, ELLE, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, and spotlighted on ABC’s The View from the Bay.

Joemy Ito-Gates

Headshot of author Joemy Ito-Gates.

Joemy Ito-Gates (she/her) is the great-granddaughter of a tea master, the granddaughter of a calligrapher, and the daughter of a koto and shamisen player. She volunteers with the grassroots activist organization Japanese American Families for Justice, teaches Dharma School at her local Buddhist temple, and is a proud mother, partner, and long-time public school educator. For her close to twenty years in public education, Joemy has been a passionate advocate for racial and social justice. She currently works in a district-wide position coordinating a rollout of Ethnic Studies, transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, while supporting the ongoing Ethnic Studies efforts at the high school level.

After becoming a mother, Joemy began tapping into another aspect of her own mother’s legacy: her keen sense of fashion. Joemy’s changing body and sense of identity through motherhood led her to find community on social media, where she began to write about the cultural appropriation of the kimono in sustainable fashion and her experiences of motherhood, race, and education. Her writing was published in Britt Hawthorne’s New York Times bestselling book, Raising Antiracist Children, and has been featured in print magazines and online blogs. Joemy has been a guest on several podcasts, and most recently was included in the Multiracial Californians series on KQED’s The California Report Magazine. Aside from her passion for social and racial justice, Joemy has a deep and abiding love for Star Trek, sewing, J-Pop, K-pop, and Asian snacks.

The Questions

Who or what has been your source of inspiration as a writer/creator?

Goldie Chan: I’ve been deeply inspired by the creatives who have been making big and bold moves before me — Michelle Yeoh, Ava DuVernay, Oprah, and more.

Rin-rin Yu: When I was in fifth grade, I read a book called Homesick: My Own Story by an author named Jean Fritz. She was not Chinese, but spent her childhood in 1920’s China as a daughter of American missionaries, and the book was about that experience from her 10-year-old perspective. It was hilarious and poignant and brought a China I would never get to experience to life. For her, life in China was all she ever knew, so there was nothing “exotic” or “strange” — it was just what it was.

As the reader, it didn’t matter that it took place in a foreign country long ago because the way she wrote about everything in a very matter-of-fact way: her friends, family, family help, classmates, and the thoughts running through her 10-year-old mind. It made them very real and relatable people and experiences. I wanted people to see my own Chinese American blended life in the same matter-of-fact way. Years later, I would do that. I read her book so many times in my life that I have it mostly memorized.

Kevin Kreider: I have to say, a lot of my inspiration as a writer and creator comes from my own life experiences. It really hasn’t come from anything other than comic books, memoirs, and memoirs I’ve read. Most of my inspiration comes from real, true-life events involving other people and myself. Much of it stems from the suffering, pain, stress, and traumas of life. I’m fascinated by how people use their traumas to create something better and experience growth afterward. I have a fascination with imperfection and how people strive to become better. To overcome all odds. 

Cindy Ng: Creative work takes a lot out of me so I make sure that I follow my swim schedule and get enough sleep and it powers my inner inspiration. I also spend a good amount of time connecting within — via meditation — so that I can produce and operate from the stillness and peace within rather than from a hurried state.

Joemy Ito-Gates: Growing up, I had very few role models to look up to, and so my greatest inspiration has always been my mother, my first Asian American role model. Tragically, she had a very short life, but in her forty-four years, she accomplished a tremendous amount through her classical Japanese music career. She did things such as performing at Carnegie Hall, recording with jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, and being featured on Reading Rainbow! She was the first person who taught me that Asian American women have the right to take up space and be center stage.

How can non-AAPI allies best support AAPI authors and books?

Goldie Chan: The best way for allies and fellow community members to support is by sharing pre-sale links, liking, sharing, and commenting (and following!) your favorite AAPI authors, and of course, buying the book and leaving thoughtful feedback and comments about the books online.

Rin-rin Yu: I think it’s really important to recognize the diversity and individuality of people rather than as a group. My experience as a Chinese American is vastly different from another Chinese American’s, and that person’s experience is different from another’s. The stories we write are going to reflect that. They’re not always going to echo the wisdom of ancestral voices and ancient lands. The truth is, sadly, a lot of that knowledge and culture is lost through the generations, especially once our families left the ancestral country.

Kevin Kreider: I think non-AAPI allies can best support AAPI authors and books by taking a chance on their stories. Often, there’s a bias because these stories don’t come from people who look like them. So, they end up going with what’s familiar, giving opportunities to others who look, sound, and identify similarly to them. It’s not necessarily malicious; it’s just that people are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. I believe AAPI allies should get comfortable with the uncomfortable and start taking bets and chances on diverse voices. It’s already been proven that diversity and underrepresented voices are both profitable and powerful.

Cindy Ng: Curious non-AAPI allies simply need to be willing to take inspired action from a place of love.

Joemy Ito-Gates: Read AAPI books, purchase them, talk about them, celebrate them, go to readings, share about them on social media, gift them to loved ones and classrooms (if appropriate), let them fill your hearts and minds, and let them change you.

We’re invested in unearthing lesser-known POC authors, whether they’re still writing or from the past. Who are your favorite authors you wish had more spotlight on and why?

Goldie Chan: I have so many POC authors who inspire me! To start, there are a few great books out right now, from graphic novels to business books like Victoria Ying’s Hungry Ghost, Laura Gao’s Messy Roots, Nancy Wang Yuen’s Reel Inequality, Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops and Mike Chen’s A Quantum Love Story, and Tiffany Yu (who I believe is also a Serendipity Literary writer) who wrote the Anti-Ableist Manifesto.

Rin-rin Yu: I also adored Betty Bao Lord’s book, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, which my teacher read to our class in second grade. It was about Lord’s experience moving from China to Brooklyn in the 1940s and, like Jean Fritz’s story, told a very real, funny, and touching story about her life in a new country. She was probably one of the first published Chinese American children’s fiction authors and probably the only AAPI-authored children’s books my classmates ever read in their lives. She has received a lot of great recognition in her career, but I don’t think many children or non-Asian Americans recognize her name.

Kevin Kreider: I wish I had some! 

Cindy Ng: I loved Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H because the immigrant experience and conflicting messages of identities are universal.

Joemy Ito-Gates: The first person who opened up my imagination to the possibility of writing a memoir, was author and writing-coach, Susan Kiyo Ito (no relation). I took one of her classes before getting pregnant and the idea settled in and took root. She just published a beautiful and important memoir about her own adoption journey, which I recommend to everyone. Another author I adore and admire is a dear friend, Savala Nolan, author of, Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender and the Body. This essay collection cracked open my heart and is a must-read for anyone who cares about intersectionality and truth-telling.

What advice do you have for aspiring AAPI writers?

Goldie Chan: Keep writing YOUR story from YOUR perspectives! It’s so helpful to share your thoughts and experiences with your audience and that is what adds interest to any book or article.

Rin-rin Yu: You’re American too, so write about your American experience! The fact that it’s tinged with your AAPI culture is what makes it unique and fun.

I think a lot of AAPI writers want to write about their parents’ stories coming to the United States. I think we need more stories from the kids’ perspective — which is theirs. Actually, my agent, Regina Brookes, pointed out that there was more of a need for that next-generation storytelling: rather than the journey itself, people want to read about that next step. 

Kevin Kreider: My advice for aspiring AAPI writers is not to shy away from their own experiences or feel like their story has already been told. You are a unique individual with your own actions, destiny, future, desires, and perspectives — that’s what makes your story unique. This isn’t the first adoption story, but it is the first story by someone like me.

Dive into the pain but also look for the solution at the end. Don’t have a crab mentality, and try your best not to have a scarcity mindset when it comes to stories. There’s so much individuality and creativity that can go into any story. Just because one story has been told doesn’t mean there’s not enough room for yours. Ignore when people say they already have one Asian story for the year. Don’t give up.

Cindy Ng: Right now, the barriers to entry are very low but the market feels very saturated, so I would combine the myriad of skills you have (ancestral resilience, education, cultural inspiration) and alchemize them in creative ways.

Joemy Ito-Gates: We need your story. There is no end to the types of AAPI stories that we need and deserve in the world and my only hope is that the publishing industry catches up and starts publishing more and more of our stories.

What are the key messages or lessons you would like people to take away from your work?

Goldie Chan: I want readers to feel that it is POSSIBLE — and probable that they can change their lives, careers, and even love for the better. They feel empowered to move forward, even if it’s a tiny baby step. I’m excited for PERSONAL BRANDING FOR INTROVERTS to come out in 2025.

Rin-rin Yu: For any first-generation American kid with foreign-born parents, you’ll always be balancing two cultures. It can be delicate and difficult, but it can also be incredibly humorous. I hope those first-gen readers of mine find the humor in their own balance — when appropriate, of course.

After reading my work, you’ll probably realize that the characters seem very familiar — probably because you know a lot of Asian Americans who grew up in very similar ways, or that they seem like everyday people you know. That’s because we are. 

Kevin Kreider: A key message I want people to take away is that, yes, there have been a lot of setbacks, traumas, and probably even self-sabotaging moments. But the difference is that I’ve never stopped and never let it take away my optimism for a better future. I don’t take no for an answer; I take it as maybe — maybe there’s a possibility in the future. I know sometimes I might seem a little delusional and should have given up on certain dreams a while ago. But by continuing, I’ve been able to persevere and push through, and dreams do come true, even if it’s a little later in life.

Another key takeaway is that to create really good stories, you have to start living. I was never afraid to live my life in my 20s and 30s: traveling, trying different careers, messing up, taking chances, going full speed, being a little sloppy if need be, striving for perfection, and then being called out for not being perfect. I didn’t let any of that bother me. I focused on my mental and physical health and my well-being, and then everything else fell into place.

Cindy Ng: Creativity is an intentional practice and accessible to everyone.

Joemy Ito-Gates: If my words encourage someone to consider a new perspective or feel a little bit more seen, then I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do. Ultimately, I would love for anyone reading my work to consider ways that they can share their own story because story-telling is the basis of all of our human connections. And connecting is the path to understanding, and understanding is perhaps the path to truth, which might lead to change, which might lead to small moments and movements toward making this world a little softer for one another.

Bonus Questions

How did your own AAPI background or experiences influence your writing and research approach?

Rin-rin Yu: As people say, you write what you know. So I can provide my perspective in a way that others can’t because they didn’t live my experience. However, it’s been fun to revisit my past through an adult lens. For example, I remember my parents used to read the Chinese newspapers that had all these theories like reading in bed would damage your eyesight. Well, I read in bed all the time, and then my vision started getting worse, but I was afraid I’d get in trouble, so I hid that from them for a while. That made its way into my upcoming book, Goodbye French Fry (coming in spring 2026!).

Kevin Kreider: Much of my background and experience as an AAPI growing up wasn’t positive when it came to my peers, and I always tried to focus on the positive instead of the negative. However, when I look back at the most dramatic experiences that impacted my life, identity, and self-esteem, they were always related to my experience growing up as a Korean American adoptee male.

Specifically, the way Asian males were treated back then was difficult. I was seen as inferior by all the girls, even Asian girls.  Asian men were viewed as skinny, nerdy, undesirable, and never part of the cool group. This greatly affected me, especially when I noticed the lack of Asian representation in TV, media, and comic books. When Asians were present, they were portrayed in very stereotypical ways.

All of this influenced my beliefs about who I could be, the career paths I could take, and even my dating options. Despite not wanting to talk about Asian masculinity, inferiority, insecurities, or the model minority myth, I was afraid that by discussing these topics, I might perpetuate them or make things worse.

However, what ended up happening is that it made things better. People started to relate to my experiences and found that their underlying feelings of insecurity and fears were validated. Additionally, we discovered that we could change these perceptions by supporting each other.

There’s a saying that you should write what you know because nobody can write it better than you. I agree with that. I don’t believe anyone would better understand what it’s like to be a Korean American adoptee male. Therefore, I draw a lot of experiences from that unique perspective into my stories.  If my stories until my mid-30s seem painful, it’s because it was.  But with pain comes so much growth, which there’s been more than I can count. 

Cindy Ng: Creating a book is a labor of love. My cultural heritage and experiences no doubt contribute to the work. Qualities like grit, resilience, and sometimes eating bitter — they all serve as excellent starting points and power me through to seeing the project to the end.

Joemy Ito-Gates: Growing up a Multiracial Japanese American in the 1980s meant that I was always hyper-aware of being of Asian heritage and being other. My writing is deeply personal and reflective of honoring that little girl who needed someone to speak up for her; even though she had no one at that time, I’m here now and I’m not letting her down. Through my writing, my hope is to always connect with the tender part of another person who felt like they did not belong, like there was something warped or unwanted about them, and to reassure them that we are in that space of forgiveness and healing together.

Although strides toward inclusion and uplifting underrepresented voices are being made, diverse stories are still not mainstream. What unique criticisms, setbacks, or struggles, if any, did you receive in creating and publishing your books?

Rin-rin Yu: Some (not everyone) people look at my foreign name and my Asian features and assume that I have a deep story of the exotic immigrant struggle to find the American Dream when I don’t have the right to claim any of that, especially the exotic part — which I hardly am. That’s how stereotypes form. My novel, Goodbye, French Fry, is actually a book about a Chinese American girl who has to deal with an annoying schoolyard bully and that her family might move to Kenya — so there goes the American Dream assumption. It is loosely based on my own childhood about a kid who made my life hell for a month by calling me French Fry and my parents toying with the idea of moving abroad for my dad’s work with the United Nations.

Kevin Kreider: Well, to be real, the struggles with creating and publishing my book are still happening. The feedback has often been, “Oh, it’s very powerful and best of luck to Kevin, but I can’t relate to it.” Or people believe one or two Asian stories are enough on their slate, or they believe they saw everything on Bling Empire already.  I think this is because many publishers and editors can’t relate to being a man, adopted, and fish out of water for some reason.  Asian women adoptees have told their stories, which people may think are the same as a male, but it’s totally opposite. Even in adoptive culture, women and girls are far more popular candidates for adoption than men.

When I was a 3-year-old boy in my adoption agency, there were only a few boys, including myself and one other, up for adoption. It was basically between me and him who would get the chance to have a life outside of the adoption center in Korea because there just wasn’t any demand or desire for a three-year-old boy, especially a Korean boy. I think many people in publishing and book writing look for stories that closely mirror their own. You almost have to be the same race, gender, and background — sometimes even from the same city — to be relatable. The biggest setback is getting people to relate to a universal story of not fitting in and not feeling good enough. My story is unique; people haven’t seen or heard it from a male perspective, especially one that involves being vulnerable, honest, and open about insecurities and vulnerabilities. This is not typical for men, and I don’t think many people are willing to bet on it yet.

Additionally, I think there’s a bias against men because they’re not seen as individuals who can have problems. Even though men have a higher suicide rate and often do a lot of physical work, it’s more normalized for them not to speak up about their issues. Men are expected to be “men” and not have these problems or talk about them, which is why, more than ever, this memoir is relevant and needed.

Cindy Ng: Our inner critic can be harsh, so above all else, I had to be gentle with myself. 

Joemy Ito-Gates: While I hope to someday have my memoir published, I think the hardest part of this journey so far has been how mysterious and opaque the publishing world is to outsiders. As a veteran educator, my path to becoming a teacher was very concrete and within my control. Becoming a published writer seems equal parts luck, magic, hard work, bravery, and relentless determination. So perhaps not too far off from being an educator after all, but the steps to the end goal are certainly a lot more shrouded and not as much in my control.

Thank you to Goldie, Rin-rin, Kevin, Cindy, and Joemy for their crucial insight into the publishing industry. Their contributions are invaluable to the industry, their communities, and the world.

Find Goldie Chan here.

Find Rin-rin Yu here.

Find Kevin Kreider here.

Find Cindy Ng here.

Find Joemy Ito-Gates here.

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