Acclaimed Poet and Children’s Book Author Bao Phi Visits Century

Acclaimed Poet and Childrens Book Author Bao Phi Visits Century

This May, Century College’s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) group will be holding a special event, CelebrAsian, in recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This event will feature award-winning writer Bao Phi. Phi is known for his poetry collections, such as “Sông I Sing” and “Thousand Star Hotel.” He has also written a few children’s books including “My Footprints” and the award-winning “A Different Pond.” The latter has won multiple awards, including the Minnesota Book Award for picture books, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association award, the Caldecott Honor, and an Ezra Jack Keats Honor.

The event is on May 2nd at 11 AM in the Lincoln Mall on East Campus. It is open to all and free of charge, and the first 100 students to RSVP and attend will receive a free signed book from the author.

In anticipation of this event, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Bao Phi.


The Century Times: What motivated you to become a writer, and when did you start writing?

Bao Phi: I started writing in grade school, just for fun. I loved books, comic books, television, anything that had a story. It was fun for me, and looking back, empowering, to be able to create worlds and stories and characters. I come from a large, economically poor refugee family, so a lot of the early stuff was escapism too. It wasn’t until I joined my High School speech team that I started doing performance poetry, or what some would call, spoken word, or slam poetry. A few things motivated me: art was how I engaged and learned about the world, and I wanted to voice something that I felt was missing, namely, a politicized Asian American refugee voice; and also, out of love of art, being a fan of it, and wanting to be a practitioner of it.


TCT: Who are some of your favorite authors or writing influences?

BP: So many! Joy Harjo, Li-Young Lee, David Mura, Martin Espada, Langston Hughes, Quincy Troupe, Nellie Wong, Lawson Inada, Gloria Naylor, Gwendolyn Brooks, Diane Glancy, Solmaz Sharif, and so, so many more. I’m a huge fan of writing, and other writers.


TCT: What advice would you give to aspiring writers, especially college students?

BP: You have to do it for the love of it, and more often than not, you’ll have to find different way to support yourself to pay the bills. Very, very few writers in America make it to the level where they make enough money to support themselves and/or their families on their book sales alone. It’s OK to dream, but at some point you need to acknowledge that writing is hard work, and the artist life is a tough one.


TCT: How has the Twin Cities writing community influenced your career?

BP: The community here is really supportive of one another, rather than being competitive. It’s so lovely. We’re spoiled here in Minnesota. There is a deep-rooted sense of support, cooperative community building, and mutual respect.


TCT: In addition to being a celebrated poet, you are an award-winning children’s book author. What motivated you to begin writing for children?

BP: I’m a single co-parent father these days. I’ve always wanted our kid to read books with people from all walks of life: Native, Indigenous, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Arab, Middle Eastern, Latinx/Chicanx, LGBTQ+, working class, poor, people with disabilities, from all over the world, and so on, and so forth. I noticed there was a lack of books featuring Asian American families, especially, Southeast Asian, working class, refugee families like mine. So I wrote a book!

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