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  • Taiwan’s Cultural Diversity on Display in Original Picture Books (II)
    Apr 29, 2021 / By Catrina Liu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=127

     

    Immigration, Interaction, Integration: Taiwan’s Newest Residents in Picture Books

    The most recently arrived residents of Taiwan mostly hail from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries. While Taiwan has an Immigrant Worker’s Literature Prize to encourage native-language writing by immigrants, for practical reasons very few non-Chinese books are commercially published in Taiwan. Thus we find that picture books on the cultures of immigrant groups often adopt a third-person perspective, looking from the outside in.

     

    Sun Hsin-Yu’s Emma, Mother adopts a child’s point-of-view to observe the life of Emma, a foreign domestic worker who juggles roles from housekeeper to nanny, even as she dearly misses her homeland. Chen Yingfan’s The Sweetness of Apples is written from the perspective of the daughter of a foreign bride from Vietnam who recounts her mother’s story. The daughter’s experiences growing non-native plants from seeds reflect her mother’s life in Taiwan, where she learns to adapt and eventually thrive on foreign soil.

     

    Malaysian author/illustrator Maniniwei, on the other hand, speaks directly from her own immigrant experience. Her retelling of a Malaysian folk tale, Mat Jenin, published bilingually in Mandarin and Malay, gives readers an authentic taste of Malaysian culture.

     

    While most of the above books were written and published in Mandarin, in keeping with the societal movement towards local language use, publishers are also beginning to experiment with Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, and aboriginal language children’s books. Animo Chen’s Love Letter is one such book, written and published in Hokkien, while the first Taiwanese Hokkien translation of The Little Prince made a splash upon publication in 2020. Current indications are that we can continue to look forward to children’s books representing a wide variety of languages and cultural backgrounds, granting young readers a larger window on Taiwan’s cultural diversity.

     

    Animo Chen

  • Taiwan’s Cultural Diversity on Display in Original Picture Books (I)
    Apr 28, 2021 / By Catrina Liu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    In recent years, Taiwan’s picture book market — long dominated by translated titles from overseas — has seen a new wave of creative output by local authors and illustrators. Drawing source material from daily life, these books are an important contribution to the preservation of traditional culture, and, owing to the diverse backgrounds of their creators, they successfully highlight Taiwan’s cultural diversity.

     

    Han Chinese authors, representing Taiwan’s dominant cultural stream, have no shortage of works that revolve around traditional culture, most often focusing on iconic subjects like local legends, festivals, and crafts. Sisters Wang Jiazhen and Wang Jiazhu collaborated on Auntie Tiger, a retelling of three ancient legends whose exquisitely evocative illustrations were accepted into the Illustrator’s Exhibition at the 2007 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Chang You-Ran’s My Little Blue Dress, constructed around the premise of a little girl who suffers from skin allergies, introduces readers to the traditional indigo dyeing techniques of Taiwan’s mountainous Sanxia region, while also highlighting faith in regional deities such as Tudigong, the earth god, and Zushiye, the deified spirit of a famous Buddhist monk. In Beyond Dajia’s Gate, author/illustrator Ballboss, whose work has also been shown at the Illustrator’s Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, explores the Mazu procession, one of Taiwan’s most famous religious events, while telling a touchingly personal tale set within a rich atmosphere of village life.

     

    MY LITTLE BLUE DRESS

     

    Preserving and Promoting Native Traditions: Aboriginal-Themed Works

    When it comes to multiculturalism, we cannot ignore the 16 legally-recognized native groups whose ancestors were the earliest inhabitants of Taiwan. The majority of the current batch of aboriginal-themed picture books answer the need for increased recognition of native culture by narrating native myths and legends, depicting the traditional way of life of various tribal groups, and exploring their relationship to the natural environment.

     

    Lai Ma’s Gold Sun, Silver Sun blends a number of native legends into an origin myth about an archer who must shoot down the sun to save his people. Aboriginal author Neqou Sokluman’s My Grandfather the Hunter delves into the Bunun people’s affective connections to the Formosan Black Bear, using cultural transmission as a lens to understand the ecological wisdom of the Bunun ancestors. Taiwan also has non-fiction picture books on native themes, such as The Fish that Flew Across the Sky, in which flying fish serve as an entry point for exploring the culture of the Tao people.

     

    Some aboriginal-themed picture books attempt to break out of the “cultural tour” mode of presentation. Although Phenol Boy is set against the backdrop of Pastaay, an important festival of the Saisiyat people, the moral of the story relates to the universal value of forgiveness. Constructing the narrative in this way allows the book to meet the needs of a broad range of readers, while also clarifying the intimate connection between the festival and the concept of remorse in Saisiyat culture.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=128

  • Bringing Books from Taiwan Around the World
    Aug 27, 2019 / By Michelle Tu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    For 16 years, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation has been actively learning and co-operating with the international publishing community. In 2012, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation held Asia's first Conference of International Book Fairs, inviting the presidents of the Frankfurt, Leipzig, Seoul, New York, Bologna, Guadalajara, Warsaw, London, Gothenburg and Prague book fairs to come to Taiwan. They brought reports detailing the book market developments in their respective regions and exchanged the latest publishing news with their Taiwanese counterparts.

     

    Taiwanese Publishing Bases Overseas

    In addition to inviting international publishers to Taiwan, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation is also committed to promoting Taiwanese writers and works in international markets. Over the last few years, the foundation has participated in the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the Thessaloniki Book Fair, the Prague Book Fair, the Warsaw Book Fair, the New York Rights Fair, the Seoul Book Fair, the Moscow Book Fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Guadalajara Book Fair...over time, Taiwan’s footprints have gradually made their way across the world.

    Every year, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation organises a “Taiwan Pavilion” in the exhibition halls of overseas book fairs, giving Taiwanese publishers, large and small, the opportunity to gain international exposure for their works, so they can establish links with publishers around the world and maintain long-term partnerships. There are various activities hosted during the exhibition, such as writers' events and “Rights Matchmaking” sessions for book publishers, which are held at the booths of the Taiwan Pavilion. They also bring many Taiwanese authors abroad every year to meet overseas readers.

    Italian readers who grew up with Jimmy Liao’s picture books were moved to tears when they saw him in person.  Similarly, Mexican fans were driven to tears when the Spanish edition of Have You Seen Me? by Zhou Jian-Xin was launched at the Guadalajara Book Fair. The History of Gay Literature by Chi Ta-wei received special recognition from the vice-chairman of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Holger Volland; and the life-sized cardboard cut-out of Nezha the Third Prince by comic artist Zuo Hsuan was a huge hit, earning her a lot of German fans.

     

    Chi Ta-wei and Holger Volland at Frankfurt Book Fair

     

    Brilliant Content and Exquisite Design Put Taiwan on the International Stage

    One particularly notable example is the 2017 Bologna Children's Book Fair, where the Taipei Book Fair Foundation invited internationally-renowned illustrator and curator Page Tsou to design the Taiwan Pavilion, who turned the booth into an exhibition with the theme “Museum of the Fantastic”. The international children’s book industry was stunned by the exhibit, demonstrating just how much the aesthetic qualities of the Taiwan Pavilion have evolved over the years. After the fair, the entire exhibit continued to be displayed at the Bologna Municipal Library, and the enthusiastic media response made its way from Europe back to Asia, prompting the Gwangju Cultural Centre in Korea to inquire about displaying the exhibition.

     

    2017 Bologna Children's Book Fair, Taiwan Pavilion

     

    Last year (2018), the Taiwan Pavilion at the Guadalajara Book Fair won “Best Booth Design of the Year” for how it used illustrations and design to create a reading ambience whilst still functioning as a professional space. The same year, Lee Chin-Lun, the illustrator recommended by the Taiwan Pavilion, also successfully sold the Spanish rights of her book How Pets Used to Be. It was exactly what a perfect book fair should look like.  

     

    2018 Guadalajara Book Fair, Taiwan Pavilion

     

    Book fairs of the future will no longer be just platforms serving readers and exhibitors, they need to become creative exhibitions that cross borders, provide experiences, and give visitors the chance to meet new people. The TiBE is striving forward to create that sense of awe and wonder, as reflected by the combination of these experiences from three friends of the Taipei Book Fair Foundation:

    “From a professional point of view, I think that Taipei Book Fair actually is a very CREATIVE book fair.” – Barbel Becker, Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany)

    “This Fair has grown over the 17 years that I've be been here, it's very IMPRESSIVE.” – Gloria Bailey, the Publishers Association (UK)

    “It's a vibrant fair, compared to many others in Asia; it is COOL!” – Nicolas Roche, Bureau International de l'edition Franciase (France)

  • BFT in Bangkok and Bologna
    Jul 17, 2017 / by Books from Taiwan

    Books from Taiwan completed its first back-to-back book fair trip to Bangkok (March 29-31) and Bologna (April 3-6). We were delighted to witness the Taiwan Pavilion made its comeback to the Bangkok International Book Fair after ten years, and to give a presentation on BFT’s main task and the translation fund program to a group of Thailand publishers on March 31.

     

  • From Square One: A New Publishing Journey
    Jun 30, 2016 / by Grace Chang, rights Director of Books From Taiwan. English translation by Canaan Morse.

    My first international exhibition since joining the Books from Taiwan (BFT) team last January was the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April. As everyone in our industry knows, this event is a must-go for children’s book authors and illustrators worldwide. I myself had been before, serving in other roles, but to come back now after years away and in a new position seemed akin to making a fresh start. This time, I had a new identity, new responsibilities, a new perspective, and new impressions.

     

    No longer was I just another rights associate of some publishing company, arriving with only my own booklist and an eye for foreign prospects. Instead, I now served as a “government sponsored rights manager,” acting under the auspices of the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture. My business now included every original Taiwanese work, author, and publisher; my responsibility was the advocate for each and every one, and help them find  ideal international collaborators.

     

    At nine a.m. on the first morning of the Fair, I made my way to the Taiwan pavilion, arranged my copies of BFT under the smiling face of the “Little Beauty of Taiwan,” and set up my meeting table. It was the first time I didn’t need to spend the day running from booth to booth, and could therefore observe our pavilion personally, and with care.

    Taiwan Stand and BFT

    Taiwan Stand and BFT

     

    Curious to know what kinds of people would gravitate to our pavilion, I played the part of impromptu receptionist for a few hours that morning. The first visitors to flip through BFT were purchasing librarians from the Bologna municipal library; later, I met publishers and booksellers from all the world (a South African publisher greeted me with: “I want sexy books! Give me something sexy!”), along with young illustrators offering their work to editors for perusal. People came to us with a diverse array of hopes and expectations, and as employees, we were responsible for engaging seriously with each. Every so often, we would enter into a round of on-site book interviews and real negotiation. In a high-stress, easily changeable atmosphere like the Fair, such occurrences came as a welcome surprise.

    Librarians

    Librarians

     

    What can a “government sponsored rights manager” do? In my spare time at the Fair (something I never had before), I poked around the exhibition floor, looking for an answer to that question. I visited the pavilions of the Czech Republic, Holland, Russia, Turkey, Croatia, Scandinavia, Cataluña, and other countries, noting how they presented themselves to the world, lowered the barriers to rights exchange, and inspired interest. Conversations with my colleagues from around the world gradually revealed that my target partners included not only editors and rights associates all over the world, but also authors, translators, the critical community, and representatives from government and non-profit foundations. I needed to plant seeds of interest all over the world, and care for them until “points” turned into “lines,” then into “areas.” This new work represented both a challenge and a source of great interest.

    Croatia

     

    I also had a chance to visit the Illustrators Exhibition 2016, which included this year’s special exhibition, a showcase of classic illustrations celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Book Fair. I found myself revisiting my first impulses to work in the children’s book industry, and pondering Taiwan’s place among the vast landscape of seemingly borderless works of art.

    50th Anniversary

    Ju Tzu

    Ju Tzu

     

    Books from Taiwan has just begun its work. Before we started, we believed that our pictorial language would allow our work to step beyond cultural boundaries more easily; only our experiences on the exhibition floor revealed the opposite to be true. Like a child with a new jigsaw puzzle, we are beginning at square one. Only practical experience will teach us how to fit those pieces, slowly but surely, into one grand picture.