5×5: Celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

Welcome back to another installment of our series 5×5 in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds, five questions. This month, to celebrate Asian/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month we spoke with incredible authors such as, Brian Tashima, Alka Joshi,  Julia Kagawa, Mary Choy and Seema Giri.   image via NSVRC Brian Tashima, independently published his four volume young adult/sci-fi fantasy series, The Joel Suzuki Series. As a sensitive sixteen-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome living in a single-parent home, Joel leads a stressful life full of bullies, bad grades and money woes. Figuring that stardom will solve all of his problems, …

5x5 Author's Corner Book Culture Diverse Voices Fantasy On Writing Recommendations Young Adult

Welcome back to another installment of our series 5×5 in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds, five questions. This month, to celebrate Asian/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month we spoke with incredible authors such as, Brian Tashima, Alka Joshi,  Julia Kagawa, Mary Choy and Seema Giri.


image via NSVRC

Brian Tashima, independently published his four volume young adult/sci-fi fantasy series, The Joel Suzuki Series.

As a sensitive sixteen-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome living in a single-parent home, Joel leads a stressful life full of bullies, bad grades and money woes. Figuring that stardom will solve all of his problems, he accepts Marshall’s offer. But once Joel arrives in the new world, he finds himself faced with an unexpected audition that is unlike anything he has ever imagined….

These books were inspired by Tashima’s son. Can you get anymore wholesome? Each book is filled with more magic then the last, so do yourself a favor and check out these books if you are looking for a truly inspiring experience.


Alka Joshi’s debut novel, The Henna Artist is a New York Times Best Seller and was picked as a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club pick for the month of May.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

If Reese Witherspoon can endorse this page turner, how could you not pick this book up? Joshi spins a masterful tail of self-discovery and female empowerment that echoes very close to home. Even though the story is set in the fifties it is even more relevant now.



Julie Kagawa is the international best selling author of many a series but many of you may know her best from The Iron Fey Series .

The Faery realms have always weathered the clash of Summer and Winter fey, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Now a new breed of faery has emerged to challenge both… to their peril. Forged by Man’s insatiable pursuit of technological superiority, the terrifying Iron fey are massing…and the fate of all faeries hangs in the balance. The greatest weapon in this epic magical war? A half-human teenage girl.

She has truly innovated the fantasy genre and as a fan of fantasy and her, she comes highly recommended. Check out her other novels like The Talon Saga, Blood of Eden, The Shadow of the Fox Series.


Mary Choy, excuse me, Dr. Mary Choy PharmD, BCGP, FASHP is the director of the Pharmacy Practice for The New York State Council of Health-System Pharmacists and author.

Healthcare Heroes: The Medical Careers guide gives you the unfiltered, unedited, no-holds-barred version of what it’s really like to be a healthcare professional in the 21st century. This book features some of the best and top healthcare jobs highlighted in the U.S. News & World Report. It serves as a useful resource for readers of all ages, whether they be in middle school, high school, college or already out in the workforce.

Her new book titled HealthCare Heroes: The Medical Careers Guide is nothing short of timely. This book is here to help you with your medical career journey or inspire you to start one. In the wake of COVID-19, this will help shed some light on what health is all about and make you appreciate all of the very hardworking nurses and doctors serving during this time.


Seema Giri PMP is a Holistic Lifestyle strategist, international speaker and award winning author. Her newest project with fellow co-authors, Break Free To Stand In Your Power will be available June 17, 2020.

It is a compilation where authors share their own journeys from breaking free to standing in their power…sharing encouragement, tips,and insights to help the reader break free and stand in their power more fully and powerfully than ever before!

With this book, Giri and her colleagues help us conquer and improve our mindsets. It allows us to break free from who we were born to or where we were raised by teaching us how to live our lives to fullest we can. Do yourselves a favor and pick it up when it drops next month.



Q/A Time!


  1. How has your writing journey/process changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Brian Tashima: I’m thankful and fortunate that it hasn’t changed all that much. For me, writing is a solitary activity that I’ve been doing at home for years, so the mechanics of the process haven’t been affected. I suppose there’s been a slight uptick in distractions, as I tend to check the news more often than before, but otherwise, as far as the actual work goes, I’ve been plugging away like usual. Obviously, I haven’t been able to do the in-person promotional events that I used to, but fortunately I can still do things like virtual school presentations and questionnaires like this one. I do feel bad for the independent bookstores that have supported me and I hope that they make it through this challenging time.


Alka Joshi: On March 3, 2020—just weeks before the lockdown—MIRA/Harper Collins released my debut novel, The Henna Artist. Writing the novel to honor my mother had been a 10-year journey, and my heart sank deeper as, one by one, each book event was canceled. Then, on March 11, my editor called: Reese Witherspoon had selected The Henna Artist for her May book club pick! My calendar was suddenly flush—this time with essays, radio interviews, cooking videos and virtual book club discussions. How I interact with readers now is different than what I had envisioned—in many ways, it’s better, more direct, and with a wider reach than I’d thought possible.


Julie Kagawa: Honestly, it hasn’t. Writing is a solitary thing for me, I sit in my office for eight hours a day and I write. I know I’m lucky in that the outbreak really hasn’t affected my writing that much. 


Mary Choy: Initially, my schedule had been filled with speaking engagements, travel to conferences, bookstore events, and lecture halls. With the shift to virtual events, I turned “travel time” into “writing time.” As the world is seeing many healthcare heroes in action, I have been reading and gathering insights to include unique stories and careers for the next Healthcare Heroes book. I’ve also made time to write articles, medical lectures, and be involved with more interviews. I’ve lectured to medical students on the cultural and societal implications within this COVID-19 pandemic and written about how a pharmacy department at the epicenter of the outbreak is leading the initiative to combat COVID-19. With the shift to virtual classrooms, I have been writing educational materials to complement the Healthcare Heroes book for schools to use for their students. During this time of reflection, I am grateful to be writing every day. 


Seema Giri: I feel I am writing more and doing more FB lives to empower people to focus on doing things that are in their control, to be aware, informed and take precautionary and preventive measures but to be careful not to get lost in the negativity. I have even have launched my blog and podcast called Break Free to Brilliance. Covid 19 outbreak happened to occur during the launch of  my second book Break Free to Stand in Your Power Anthology with 17 co-authors. The mission of the book is to inspire, educate and empower people to breaking powerfully free from life challenges to live and shine fully. I feel humbled that my co authors and I have this opportunity to serve and support even more people in this hour of need globally


2. What has been the driving force behind your writing career?

Brian Tashima: Primarily a desire to help make the world a more positive place through my work, not only through accurate and respectful representation of minority groups as characters in my stories, but also via direct philanthropy as well. To elaborate, my main young adult novel series features a protagonist who is both autistic and Asian-American, and I donate a dollar from each book I sell to a nonprofit organization called Autism Empowerment which works to improve the quality of life for people and families in the autism community.


Alka Joshi: Like my protagonist Lakshmi, I’m “eager to learn, to develop my skills, to make a life I can call my own.” These desires, and the desire to reimagine a life for my traditionally- raised mother, who didn’t get to choose whom she married or whether she wanted a career but who made sure that I, her only daughter, would be able to determine my destiny, compelled me to write about my birth nation, its incredibly resilient women, and its rich culture. 


Julie Kagawa: The love of story. Stories that can make you laugh, cry, cheer and rage are the stories that will stick with you forever. It doesn’t have to be in a book, either. Many times I find inspiration in movies, anime and video games. The ones I remember are the ones that had characters I connected with, a world I adored, and a seemingly insurmountable quest or problem to overcome. I try to infuse that sense of story into my own books, and that has been the driving force behind my career.


Mary Choy: The driving force behind my writing career has been my passion for educating and inspiring others. As a professor, I created a medical writing elective and taught students the art of writing to guide them towards publishing their works. I also held writing workshops for pharmacists and equipped them with the tools to publish and present at national conferences. I keep people up-to-date on health information for various medical topics. My writing has helped promote cultural awareness and improve health literacy in leading educational initiatives in preventative care for the public.


Seema Giri: I was encouraged by my peers and colleagues how important it was to share my transformation of being bedridden with chronic pain to becoming a successful entrepreneur and living life on my terms to teach others that the same life transformations are also possible for them.



3. When did you know that you wanted to become a writer?

Brian Tashima: I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid reading everything I could get my hands on, from novels like The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara to Spider-Man and X-Men comics, all of which sparked a desire to create similar stories of my own. Over the years, I made some attempts at writing a novel, but I never found the right inspiration or motivation to see it all the way through. Then one day, my then-eleven-year-old son—who is on the autism spectrum and had been reading things like Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games—came up to me and said, “hey, Dad, would you write me a book?” And so that’s when my writing career really began.


Alka Joshi: Shortly after our marriage, my husband pointed out to me that I could be a fiction writer. I’d been writing copy for commercials and print ads for years, never believing that I could be a literary writer. I began with evening writing workshops. My instructors were always so encouraging that I kept going, finally enrolling in a two-year MFA program when the 2008 recession put a halt to my advertising/marketing business. My thesis became the first draft of The Henna Artist


Julie Kagawa: Around 16 or 17, when I decided I didn’t want to be a veterinarian after all because of all the math and science that was involved.


Mary Choy: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to write and started writing in my teens. In a yearly Chinese school writing competition, my essay was chosen and I won a medal. The competition results received media coverage and it was the first time I saw my name in print. This experience reinforced my interest in writing and educating others. When I worked at Weill Cornell Medicine/New York Presbyterian Hospital, a colleague mentioned ‘medical writing’ to me as a potential career path and I knew I had to learn all about it. Medical writers share news and research that is improving health outcomes and saving lives. I published my first research article in a medical journal focused on heart health and life as a writer began.

Seema Giri: I always thought that writing books, sharing stories and empowering others through this medium was for others. I admired them from a distance. I never in my wildest dream ever think that I too would be an author. I feel the writing choose me


4. Did you choose your genre or did your genre choose you?

Brian Tashima: I guess you could say that it’s a bit of both. As a reader, science fiction and fantasy has always been my favorite genre, so when it came time to create my own project, that was naturally the sandbox that I chose to play in. Like they say—write what you know.

Alka Joshi:  My genre chose me. As an immigrant child in Iowa, I wanted to be American, not Indian. But when my mother became nostalgic for India in her later years, I accompanied her on multiple trips to Jaipur—staying for a month at a time—and experienced India’s rich, vibrant, chaotic culture through the eyes of an adult. The sweetest treat was spending so much time with my mother—just the two of us—and delving deeper into her girlhood, her early desires and why she raised me so differently from her own upbringing. So, much to my surprise, my first foray into the literary world became a novel about India. 

Julie Kagawa: The genre definitely chose me. My favorite genre has always been fantasy; its all I read growing up. Once or twice, I’ve tried writing pure contemporary, but then things like vampires and unicorns started showing up in the story, so I decided I was a fantasy writer through and through.

Mary Choy: The genre of writing a healthcare careers book for youth definitely chose me. As a clinical pharmacist, professor, and mentor, I have enjoyed training healthcare professionals, networking, and empowering many students to find their right career path. Upon reflecting and discussing my own experiences about how I got into healthcare, students were most drawn to personal stories. Sharing this knowledge is vital to empowering youth to finding their right career path. Giving curious kids a chance to learn what these brave healthcare workers do is how we can engage and nurture our next generation of healthcare heroes.

Seema Giri: Definitely the genre chose me. I am excited that through this genre I can provide a platform for others to share their brilliant story


5. What is on your quarantine reading list?

Brian Tashima: Some old Xanth novels from Piers Anthony and an essay collection by Ryan Britt called Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths. I’ve also been reading a lot of Japan travel memoirs, like Lost in Tokyo, Across Tokyo, Pretty Good Number One, Tune in Tokyo, and Not One Shrine. Before the pandemic, I had been planning a trip to Japan with my daughter—who is also really into learning the language and culture—and we hope to still be able to make it over there as soon as conditions allow. So, in the meantime, I’ve been whetting my appetite and living vicariously through other people’s experiences. I’ve always felt that reading can transport you to other worlds and places, so if you can’t be there for real, then a book is the next best thing.

Alka Joshi:  It’s difficult for me to read fiction right now; all my social media interactions, essays and interviews are about the world of The Henna Artist. But when it’s a different genre, a mystery like The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey or a multi-generational story set in a different country like Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, I can totally get lost in it!

Julie Kagawa: Mostly the words on my computer screen. Its Deadline Crunch Time, and I have a couple big projects to get through, so sadly reading for pleasure has been put on the back burner for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to it soon. 

Mary Choy: As we’re all adjusting to the new normal, it’s the ideal time to read some new books as an escape from reality. My quarantine book list that keeps me inspired is a mix of mystery, thriller, love, happiness in business, fantasy, and Asian folk tales. Here’s what’s on my list: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok, Perfect Distraction by Allison Ashley, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, and A Shape of the Night by Tess Gerritsen. With young kids at home, I eagerly unwrapped new Harry Potter books that I bought over 20 years ago. I knew they would quickly become fascinated with the magical adventures like I was years ago and still am and have plenty of questions for J.K. Rowling. Additional reads are Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin and Wanda Seasongood and the Mostly True Secret by Susan Lurie.

Seema Giri: The books on my quarantine reading list are Becoming by Michelle Obama, Anatomy of Spirit by Carolyn Myss, The Two Most Important Dates by Dr. Sanjiv Chopra.


Thank you for joining us for this month’s 5×5!


featured image via Bookstr