Flora Ahn on Food, Family, and Middle Grade Book Recs for AAPI Month

Posted by Quirk Books Staff

Looking for great middle grade book recs for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and beyond? We caught up with A Spoonful of Time author Flora Ahn and talked favorite foods, writing, family, and Flora’s middle grade book recs by AAPI authors, so you’ll have some great reads to add to your list. Grab your favorite snack and enjoy the Q&A!


Quirk Books: What do you consider the perfect reading snack?

Flora Ahn: Flamin Hot Cheetos eaten with chopsticks to keep my fingers clean so I can turn pages without getting them dirty!


QB: What was your favorite part of writing A Spoonful of Time?

FA: I loved the food research! I talked to my parents about the different foods included in the book and did a lot of research online too. I ate a lot of Korean food while writing this book!


QB: A Spoonful of Time touches on themes of immigration, family, and identity. What made you interested in writing about these topics? Did your personal experiences inform them in any way?

FA: As a second generation Korean American, I often think about immigration, family, and identity. So much of who I am is based off of my upbringing and experiences with my family. I often felt like I was on the boundary of two worlds as a Korean and an American without ever feeling truly part of either. And I often felt like I had to balance two worlds, one with my family and one with my friends. I wanted to write something that touches on these themes and issues so that any reader who is going through the same won’t feel so alone. It’s hard figuring out who you are and where you belong in the world.


QB: Did your upbringing or relationship with your own mother influence the story?

FA: My mom was a huge influence for my book. When I was growing up, my mom wasn’t a very emotional person but she would often communicate her love through food. As we’ve both grown older, we’ve learned a lot and communicate in a more open manner. I wanted to explore that kind of development in my book with Maya not knowing and understanding her mother at first because of their communication issues. I think it’s hard as a kid thinking of your parents as their own persons who lived entire lives before you were even born.


QB: You and your mother made bindaetteok and taught us the recipe with a cooking video! What is your favorite food your mom makes, and what is your favorite food to make together?

FA: My favorite food is actually one my mom and I make together. We grill different kinds of meat on a tabletop grill and eat it with fresh vegetables, kimchi, and a spicy soybean paste. The best is piling it all on a lettuce leaf, wrapping it up, and putting the whole thing in your mouth so you get an explosion of flavors all at once. We take turns cooking the meat so we both have time to eat. And then at the end, we take the leftover meat, kimchi, and vegetables, cut them up, add rice and spicy pepper paste, and make kimchi fried rice. It’s simple but so good!


QB: What are some middle grade books by AAPI authors that you’ve been loving? Any book recs?

FA: I tend to be drawn to fantasy middle grade books so I loved When You Trap A Tiger by Tae Keller and Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin. For contemporary, I really enjoyed Front Desk by Kelly Yang and You Are Here: Connecting Flights, a great collection of interwoven short stories by a bunch of fantastic authors. And this one is a bit younger, but I recently enjoyed Love in The Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall.


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