Palo Alto resident and author Joanna Ho’s (www.joannahowrites.com) debut book, “Eyes that Kiss in the Corners” was released in early January. By mid-January, this picture book, illustrated by Dung Ho, hit the New York Times Best Seller list.
Published by Harper Collins, the book is about a girl of Asian heritage who recognizes the beauty of her eyes.
“The inspiration behind writing this book is for my daughter to grow up loving the way she looks, knowing she is beautiful and never wanting to look different than she does,” said Joanna, who is Asian American. “Growing up, I used to always want to have bigger eyes. I used to look in the mirror and lift up my eye lids imagining myself with bigger eyes. I never imagined that someone with eyes like mine could be beautiful. Those narrow standards of beauty are built on standards of whiteness.
“Understanding my own beauty and culture, and having lived in Taiwan for 18 months, I was able to see examples in the media of beautiful Asian women with eyes that looked just like mine,” Joanna continued. “Seeing this representation was tremendously impactful for me. For me, it has been a journey to understand my own beauty and my own power in America, where historically, Asians have been oppressed and faced a lot of discrimination.”
Joanna talked about her book’s publication process.
“Once the publisher acquired the book, my editor, Clarissa Wong, chose the illustrator,” Joanna said. “Dung Ho is such a magical artist. I was blown away by how the art turned out.”
Joanna is grateful for how supportive those in the book and publishing community have been of her book.
“I have to give a huge shout out to the publisher, Harper Collins,” Joanna said. “As an author, you know that not every book gets the same kind of publicity. I went in not expecting the kind of publicity and support that I ended up receiving. If I feel I have to do a book launch during the pandemic, I’m glad it’s my first one because I don’t have anything to compare it to.”
Joanna also looks forward to the release of her next picture book, a story about cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
“My book, ‘Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma,’ will come in the Fall,” Joanna said. “This is a book about how Yo-Yo Ma played at the border of Texas and Mexico in 2019. It’s a story about building borders instead of building walls.”
Joanna conducted extensive research about Yo-Yo Ma for her book.
“I did a lot of the research online,” she said. “I watched a ton of documentaries about Yo-Yo Ma. I read tons of articles. That took me down a lot of rabbit holes as I learned about the cello that he plays-its name is Petunia and it costs $2 million. I learned about the Bach cello suites, which were the songs Yo-Yo Ma played at the border.”