Cover of Som Tum & Sticky

Small Business Owners Collaborate For Change

Jay Pun of Charlottesville, Virginia, is no stranger to navigating the world of business. He and his family are small business owners. For years they have served the local community with Thai Cuisine. However, in 2021 after the attacks in Atlanta that left the Asian community shaken, he shifted his focus to provide food for thought and representation of Thai people within children’s books.

Jay had noticed that there was a lack of Asian representation within the children’s books he was reading to his daughters. This realization led him to pursue a new business endeavor, writing children’s books. When thinking about what to write about, the restaurant owner knew he wanted to include food culture within the book. The dish he chose to incorporate within his book was one that he knew every Thai person could relate to, Som Tum (papaya salad). With this decision, the concept for the book Som Tum & Sticky Rice was born.

With his plot in mind, Jay then began searching to find a Thai identifying illustrator to work with for his book. In his search, he turned to Instagram, where he found the page of Thai-Korean-American artist Emily Kim. Once he found her work, he knew that her art style would fit the aesthetic that he wanted to see in his book.

Just like Jay, Emily was an Asian American navigating the business world in pursuit of creating works that represented her identity. Emily’s art endeavors began when she was 23, she began pursuing art after she left nursing school and moved to Thailand to take care of her grandmother. Emily initially perused art as a way to help her understand her direction in life and better understand herself and an American living in Thailand. She agreed to work with Jay in the development of Som Tum & Sticky Rice as it met her one rule for her projects. It was a project that was personal to her and one that she could resonate with.

It is hoped that in November 2022, Som Tum & Sticky Rice will be available to the public. This book will undoubtedly provide an essential piece of representation that has been absent from the shelves of libraries and classrooms across the United States. Without the collaboration of these two creators and their willingness to navigate the business world of children’s books, this change would not have been possible.

Cover of Som Tum & Sticky

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Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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