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🙂 * What inspired Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, and how did you go about developing Jasmine’s character?In 2010, I came across a newspaper article about a multigenerational Japanese American family who got together every New Year’s to make mochi (a chewy rice treat) the traditional way, by pounding steamed sweet rice into a sticky mass and rolling them into balls.I am beyond thrilled to have a series for young readers starring a Japanese American girl!I’m not sure I consciously wrote with a message in mind, other than wanting to write about a Japanese American girl.When I was growing up, I loved reading books like by Jeanne Watatsuki Houston, about Jeanne and her family and their experience being interned during World War II due to their race.While the book interested me, I didn’t directly identify with the characters.Not only that but I had to juggle the books – I was doing copy edits on Mochi Queen, revising Super Sleuth, and writing Drummer Girl.
What have been the greatest challenges about this project so far?
Never mind that pounding is traditionally reserved for males, and that the hammer is quite heavy.
Never mind that her mean cousin Eddie keeps calling her a weakling and taunting her. She will find a way to convince her Dad and uncle that she can and should be allowed to pound mochi with them. Readers will laugh and cheer Jasmine on as she twirls her pasta extra hard, lifts up her younger cousin, and hangs from a tree to show everybody just how strong she really is.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the family and how fun it must have been to make mochi together like that. Traditionally, men pounded mochi while women rolled mochi. She was persistent and I could no longer ignore her.
I wondered what would happen if a Japanese American girl wanted to break the family rules and tradition and pound mochi with the boys. Not only that, but she was a younger sister who was frustrated that her older sister always got to do everything first. By the time I sat down to write her story, I knew her well because she’d been talking in my head for months.