Press Release: Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans Announce Selected Authors and Illustrators for 2013 Reading Together Project

25 Apr


For Immediate Release


Christi Shortridge                              Casey DeMarais                               Kham Vang
Communications Director                   Director of Programs                         Program Assistant
Minnesota Humanities Center             Minnesota Humanities Center            Minnesota Humanities Center
651-772-4251 /     651-772-4278 /    651-772-4245 /

Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans Announce Selected Authors and Illustrators for 2013 Reading Together Project

April 15, 2013: St. Paul, MN: The Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) are pleased to announce the selection of writers and illustrators for the 2013 Reading Together Project. These authors and illustrators will collaborate to create four culturally relevant children’s picture books, geared toward readers from three- to seven-years old, as part of the 2013 Reading Together Project. The books will be printed and distributed to educators, teachers, students, parents, and community members in the fall of 2013. This is the second year of the Reading Together Project collaboration between the Humanities Center and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.

The Reading Together Project addresses the lack of children’s picture books that speak to the experience of being an Asian Pacific Islander (API) child in the United States. The project supports development of English literacy skills while recognizing cultural heritage and creating opportunities for children and families to learn together about API cultural heritage.

“CAPM is thrilled to continue its partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center on the Reading Together Project,” said Sia Her, Executive Director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. “In alignment with CAPM’s state-enabled role as the advocate for the API community in Minnesota, the Reading Together Project addresses the dearth of children’s books that reflect the API experience in the United States.” David O’Fallon, CEO and President of the Minnesota Humanities Center, notes, “This collaboration produces something neither organization is able to create alone—unique resources which share culturally relevant stories to inspire and engage Minnesota’s children.”

A selection committee comprised of community members and project staff carefully considered all submissions. Selected writers and illustrators will each receive a $1,000 stipend upon completion of the project.

The following are short biographies of the uniquely talented authors and illustrators selected for this project:

Chay Douangphouxay is an award winning Lao-Khmer American artist/activist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ms. Douangphouxay uses her art to educate and inspire others to advocate for their communities. Her first solo chapbook, Remission: Finding Light In the Midst of Social Darkness was released as part of the 2012 Legacy Fellowship Grant and has been widely utilized as a national educational tool on issues of class, gender, and race. Chay is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Twin Cities Chapter of NAPAWF, a national organization working to forge a grassroots progressive movement to advance social justice and human rights for Asian-Pacific Islander (API) women and girls.

Diane Tran manages electoral and advocacy projects at Grassroots Solutions, a national consulting firm specializing in grassroots strategy, organizing, training, and evaluation. Ms. Tran serves on the boards of directors for the Citizens League, the Minnesota Public Health Association, and the Leaders of Today and Tomorrow Program of the League of Women Voters Minnesota. Diane earned academic honors while completing a self-designed bachelor’s degree in International Social Policy with a double major in Humanities at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. Ms. Tran leads a network of emerging leaders in Minnesota committed to building relationships, trust, and a shared vision for the state, and blogs about active citizenship and the Millennial generation at

Mai Kou Xiong came to the United States when she was eight years old and settled in Santa Barbara, California. Mai has been an educator for 17 years, teaching math and coordinating Hmong literacy and culture programs and currently works as the Hmong reading intervention specialist for the Hmong Dual Immersion Program at Jackson Preparatory Magnet School. Ms. Xion co-hosts a Hmong talk show called “Xav Paub Xav Pom” with 3Hmoob TV and reports on critical issues and events that affect the Hmong community. Mai is one of the authors for the children’s book Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella with Dr. Jewell Reinhart Coburn, and the team is in the process of publishing their next book titled The Enchanted Necklace.

Steve Wright
When Steve was younger, his heroes were athletes who could hit the ball the farthest, throw the hardest, or run the fastest. As Steve grew older, he came to realize that the true heroes are our storytellers. The true power of a story lies in its ability to meet the reader where they are at and to transport and transform the reader simultaneously. As a 5th grade teacher, Steve’s best days in the classroom are when storytellers come and cast their spell on his students in ways that no others can reach them. Steve bats right and throws right.

Alex Kuno is a professional artist and illustrator living and working in Lowertown, St. Paul. The Miscreants of Tiny Town, his ongoing painting series of improvised, darkly satirical fairy tales and morality plays, has been featured in numerous solo and group shows in museums and major galleries throughout the Twin Cities and around the country. Kuno’s work is currently represented by Curly Tale Fine Art in Chicago, and he can be seen on tpt’s MNOriginal.

Alex Patrick Shimkus was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Bloomington, Minnesota and is a children’s book illustrator and a cartoonist. Alex has previously published an educational book titled, Teaching Tips for Kids with Asperger’s. Mr. Shimkus studied fine art at Normandale Community College and earned his B.F.A in illustration at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. When Alex is not working, he is playing in his studio with all sorts of doodles, drawings, doo-dads, and trinkets.

Ilhwa Gloria Kim is a student artist pursuing a degree in art and psychology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, with an emphasis on animation. Ms. Kim is mostly self-taught, and digital painting is her favorite type of illustration. Inspired by children, she often volunteers at different events as a face painter or art project instructor.

Vang Lee graduated from Fresno State University. Mr. Lee facilitates Hmong men groups for a domestic abuse program in St. Paul, Minnesota. Vang enjoys camping, hiking, and drawing, and he lives with his wife in Woodbury.


Organizational Overviews

The Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans (Council or CAPM) is a statewide government agency created by the legislature in 1985 to advise the governor and state legislature on issues confronting Asian and Pacific Islander (API) people in this state, including problems unique to non-English speaking immigrants and refugees; ensure that API are incorporated and engaged in governmental and policy-making processes; publicize the accomplishments of API, as well as their contributions and value to this state; and serve as a bridge between the API community in Minnesota and mainstream society and institutions.  More information at

Focused on the future of our state, The Minnesota Humanities Center brings the unique resources of the humanities to the challenges and opportunities of our times. We work in partnerships across the state to build thoughtful, literate, engaged citizens.  Through the humanities, this Center builds community and brings into public life the untold stories that deepen our connections to each other. More information at

Legacy Amendment Funding

This collaborative book project is funded with money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that was created with the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008. During the 2011 Legislative session, the Minnesota State Legislature asked the Minnesota Humanities Center to award competitive grants to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the Council on Black Minnesotans, the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and the Chicano Latino Affairs Council. Competitive grants are for programs and cooperation between the Minnesota Humanities Center and the grant recipients for community events and programs that celebrate and preserve artistic, historical, and cultural heritage (Special Session 1: Senate File Chapter 6, Article 4, Section 2, Subdivision 8).

The Legacy Amendment is a constitutional amendment adopted by Minnesota voters in November 2008. It raised the state sales tax by 3/8 of 1% for a period of 25 years and dedicated the earned revenue to clean water, parks, outdoor habitat, and arts and cultural heritage, as established in the Minnesota Constitution, article XI, section 15.

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