About the Book

A multicultural children’s book sure to touch the heart of every reader, I am Flippish! openly addresses confusion children of diverse families might have about their ancestry and why they look the way they do.

When one of Sean’s classmates insists that his dad is not, in fact, his dad because their skin is a different color, Sean is sad and confused. His wise teacher, Mr. Hartman, gives the students a homework assignment, instructing the children to go home and ask their parents about their ancestry. As a result, Sean discovers that he is Flippish—Filipino and Irish. Together, the family celebrates their heritage and Sean is able to return to school with confidence about who he is, where he comes from, and why he looks the way he does—which children of all ages can learn from and pride themselves on, too.

The Story Behind “I am Flippish!”

I am Filipino-American and my husband is Irish-American.  We have 2 children, Sean (10) and Linley (7).  Ever since our children were born, people said they looked more Asian than Irish. We thought it was pretty funny, especially when Sean’s full name is Sean Patrick Ryan.  But in 2007, when Sean was in 1st grade, a mom in his class told my son that he didn’t look Irish and he couldn’t be Irish.  Even though it was meant as a joke, it was a little hurtful and no longer funny.  My son then asked me if he really is Irish.  And I said yes, he is half Filipino and half Irish, or Flippish for short.  Earlier in the year I had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, and then chemotherapy, then the reconstructive surgery.  So I felt really sensitive, angry, and vulnerable at that time.

After this incident, I started looking for children’s picture books about multi-cultural families. Surprisingly I didn’t find any.  To my disappointment and frustration that there were no books explaining to kids about where their ancestors came from, I decided to write a story myself.  I wanted to explain to my children that their ancestors came from different parts of the world to the US and that we as Americans are products of immigrants – with the exception of the American Indians of course.  I also wanted to tell my children that everybody got the best parts of their parents.

After I wrote the story, I felt the need to share it but I was too scared to be rejected.   The urge to get my story out became so great that in late 2009 I sent it to ten literary
agencies and publishing houses.  I figured I had nothing to lose.  However, one by
one, rejection letters started to trickle in and by September 2010, after my last rejection letter I was really discouraged.  I thought about putting my manuscript in the filing cabinet and forgetting about it.  That night, I had a strange dream.

I dreamt that I was swimming under water, and I don’t know how to swim, let alone swim under water. So I was swimming alone and then Dory (from “Finding Nemo”) – yes including Ellen DeGeneres’ voice swam up next to me and asked if she can swim with me.  So Dory and I were swam for a long time and the whole time we were swimming, Dory kept on singing “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”.  Just when I was about to ask Dory to zip it, because she was driving me crazy, we came upon this big hole.  Then I looked around and didn’t realize we were inside a large net.  Then Dory swam through the hole and turned to me and said, “See, if you keep swimming, you will find a way out.”  Then with that Dory disappeared.  That is when I woke up.  I thought my dream was pretty strange,  because I haven’t seen “Finding Nemo” in 5 years and I don’t know how to swim!

That week, my son’s 4th grade teacher, Eric Hartman (who is in the book) and I were talking about children’s books.  He mentioned to me that he was also a writer and we started chatting about the challenges of getting a book published.  I told him about my discouraged state with the submission process and asked him if he could take a look at my manuscript.  I emailed it to him that night with the thought that if he as a teacher didn’t like it, then “I am Flippish!” stays inside my filing cabinet. The next day, I saw him after school and the first thing he told me was that I had to share my story and it needed to be published.  Eric saw my book as a story not only about diversity and acceptance, but also about encouraging every child to find out where their ancestors came from.  Eric said that when my book comes out, I needed to send it to Ellen.  It was Ellen DeGeneres – the voice of Dory, the person I needed to send my book to!  I got goose bumps at that moment, because it reminded me of my Dory dream.  My dream was so profound that I still remembered every single detail.  So that was what the dream meant!  If I kept swimming, and never gave up, I would find a hole and a way out
of the net. I didn’t give up, and kept going and pursued my dream of being an author. I would find a way to get my book out. So that is what I did.

My “Dory” dream and my family and friends’ encouragement gave me the gumption to take a leap of faith and publish the book myself. I needed an illustrator and Eric and his wife, Tracy, introduced me to Adolph Soliz, a talented illustrator from Laguna College of Art + Design in Laguna Beach .  Adolph did an amazing job making my story come to life.

13 thoughts on “About the Book

  1. Leslie,

    I found your story heartbreaking, especially the bit with the mom saying how your son couldn’t be Irish because he “looked more asian”. This hit me especially hard because it reminded me of my childhood. I went through the same things your children are currently going through/will go through because of my mixed heritage (Welsh and Taiwanese). All I can say is as a Hapa, I’m incredibly grateful that you’re educating your children and their peers while they’re still young on the concepts of being biracial- something my parents never thought to do. I find it incredibly important that Hapa kids understand that they’re stepping in two worlds, and I hope that one day people can distinguish Hapas and learn to accept both of their cultures, and not just label them as the one they look most like. I really do hope to find a copy of your book soon.

    • Hi Dylan,
      Thank you for your kind words. So, you are “Welwanese” or “Taiwanelsh”? It is funny because when we were in Asia, our kids looked caucasian to the locals. Here in the US, my kids look more Asian. I agree that Hapa kids should understand and appreciate that they have two or more cultures to draw from. It is important to teach Hapa kids to be proud of their heritage so that when other kids see that they are proud of their ancestry, it would deter them from saying something mean and maybe look into their ancestry as well.
      My hot topic of the moment is the state testing and why the kids are allowed to only check one box for their ethnicity? Did you go through that? What did you do in the past? My 10 year old son had to go through that and I asked him what he put down. He told me that he put down Asian because he felt like it, and maybe next time he will put down Caucasian. Funny, eh?

      You can find my book on Amazon.com and could you please do me a favor and write a review? The more the review the more people sees it and more people will be aware that a children’s book about Hapa kids do exist.

      All the best,
      Leslie V. Ryan

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  5. Hi Leslie,

    I was so happy to read your article. My daughter-in law is Filipina and like me, my son is Irish-American. My daughter-in-law has a full blood Filipino son. They also have two biological sons and we are so proud of them. We proudly say they are Iripino. Our Filipino grandson is very slight by American standards. We tell him that if he ever gets in trouble later on in high school that he can tell the bullies that he will get his very large little brothers after them. Our Iripino grandsons are light with an Asian look and have very Irish names; Aidan and Declan.

    Thanks for your so familiar story.

    Paul T Hearn

    • Hi Paul,
      Very nice to meet you. Thank you very much for reaching out to me. I love to hear people’s stories about their diverse families.
      Our families are very lucky to have the best of both worlds. Like your grandkids, my kids are proud to be Flippish or Iripino. They have come across a few bumps such as having to choose 1 race for surveys (please read my Open Letter to Nielsen http://iamflippish.com/?p=346) I’m curious if your grandchildren came across situations like mine. We deal with situations like this with humor and wit.
      I almost named my son Declan. I just love that name.
      Thank you again for reaching out.

      Leslie

      • Hi again Leslie,

        Our Flippish, or as we say Iripino, grandsons aren’t in school yet. Aidan is 4 and Declan just had his first birthday. Their older brother, Jessie James (Jem) is 10 and at the top of his fourth grade class. Not bad for a child who only spoke about twenty English words when he came to America three years ago. Aidan was born in the Phillipines and his Filipina grandmother, who they call Lola, said he was their white baby and yet here in Pennsylvania, he is golden compared to our very pale German/Irish skin. His hair is light brown and people always want to know what “nationality” he is. I tell them he’s Iripino and has the best of both cultures. Declan looks much more Irish with dark blonde hair and blue/gray eyes. Before Aidan was born, I remember my daughter-in-law told me that she wondered if she would have a blonde blue eyed baby. I told her that he might have black hair and brown eyes like me and I’m Irish. Of course I have gray hair now but I remember when I was in college, the dean was expecting an Irishman and an Italian. When we showed up for registration, they assumed I was the Italian and the other guy was the Irishman. Like I said, I had black hair and brown eyes. The other guy had red hair, blue eyes and freckles. Everyone has misconceptions about what other cultures look like. I was able to order your book “Flippish” from Barnes and Noble. I am going to present it to my son and daughter-in-law at Thanksgiving. I’ll let you know how the discussion goes. It’s too bad we live on opposite coasts, I would love to introduce my family to yours. I bet we have a lot in common. Please let me know if you are going to be in our area. We live near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. are only day trips for us. I don’t want to give too much personal info on this blog but if you are going to be in the area, you can email me. I think your website has my personal info.

        Happy Thanksgiving,

        Paul

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