OCA Weekly Author Feature: Kam Mak
The Organization of Chinese Americans National APA Heritage Month Children’s Book Tour, presents interviews with participating authors on their experience as an APA children’s book author. This week, OCA features Kam Mak, author of My Chinatown: One Year in Poems.
Kam Mak was born in Hong Kong. His family moved to the United States in 1971 and settled in New York City. His interest in painting was awakened through involvement with City Art Workshop, an organization which enables inner-city youths to explore the arts.
Mak eventually won a scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in the School of Visual Arts and has built a distinguishing career as an illustrator since then. He has illustrated over 200 pieces for major publications such as HarperCollins, National Geographic, and the New York Times.
Kam’s latest book My Chinatown: One Year in Poems, is a story of a little boy growing up in Chinatown. It received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was the 2002 Parent’s Choice Recommended Award Winner by the Parents’ Choice Foundation.
Kam has won numerous awards including the Oppenheim Platinum Medal and the National Parenting Publication Gold Medal for Best Children’s Picture Book. At the Society of Illustrators 45th Annual Exhibition, Kam was awarded a gold medal for the cover art for The Kite Rider and silver medals for the cover art for My Chinatown.
In 2008 Kam was awarded The Asian American Dynamic Achiever Awards of OCA-Westchester & Hudson Valley Chapter, for his outstanding accomplishment in the arts. Kam’s most recent art has graced the second series of the USPS lunar New Year stamps and also a new postcard stamp for the USPS adored with the fish Koi was released in spring 2009.
OCA: Who or what inspired you to write your first book?
Kam Mak: It is an autobiography. I based it on my own childhood experiences when I was ten.
OCA: Where did you grow up and has that influenced your writing?
KM: I was born in Hong Kong. I immigrated to the US when I was ten years old and settled in New York City Chinatown. Growing up in Chinatown has no influence on my writing style but it has a big influence on me as an artist.
OCA: How did you come up with the plot and title for the book you’re reading for the book tour?
KM: I created a painting capturing a fond moment I spent in the kitchen with my grandmother. From this painting, I came up with an idea to create a picture book that recollects all the wonderful memories I had growing up in Chinatown.
OCA: How does being an Asian Pacific American (APA) affect your writing style?
KM: Because I am an immigrant and English is my second language writing did not come easy for me.
OCA: Can you share any projects in the works with us?
KM: I am presently working on the USPS Lunar New Year stamp series. I am also working on a series of paintings based on my fascination with the Chinese cultural tradition of displaying live animals in food markets.
OCA: What do you like to do in your free time outside of writing?
KM: I am an illustrator and not a writer by profession. I love writing on my free time. ο