Two local authors highlight the importance of family history for AAPI month

May 31, 2024, 2:56 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm

VINEYARD — Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is coming to a close, and two local authors are talking about their new books highlighting the importance of family history.

One is Japanese-American, and the other is Samoan-Hawaiian. Both have written a children’s book to teach their kids about their roots and give people a glimpse into their rich heritage.

“The book is called Judy’s Tree. It’s named after my grandmother Judy,” said Matt Serrao.

Serrao’s 97-year-old grandmother inspired him to write a children’s book.

“As we’ve had kids of our own, we wanted them to know of her and her story,” he said.

A photo with Serrao's grandmother.

A photo with Serrao’s grandmother. (Courtesy: Matt Serrao)

The book follows Judy’s journey growing up in Hawaii as a second-generation Japanese-American.

“It was all around the time just before World War II,” said Serrao.”They lived around the shores of Pearl Harbor. It’s part of that immigrant story of wanting to belong.”

His wife, Janna, brought the stories to life with her illustrations.

“We did this for our family, so it’s really cool to have this physical representation of our family history.”

Matt Serrao with his family reading his book "Judy's Tree."

Matt Serrao with his family reading his book “Judy’s Tree.” (KSL TV)

Judy forged a new life despite unique challenges. This is a lesson Serrao hopes will resonate with kids from all backgrounds.

“I think through struggles, she can still see joy.”

A four-year passion project has turned into a children’s book by first-time author Kealani Netane. In her book, “Tala Learns to Siva,” the former Utah educator teaches kids about traditional Samoan dancing.

“The book starts with a little girl, Tala, seeing her auntie dance the taualuga, and she falls in love with it so much that she wants to learn it herself,” Netane said.

Kealani Netane gathered around her family reading her book “Tala Learns to Siva.”

Kealani Netane gathered around her family reading her book “Tala Learns to Siva.” (KSL TV)

Inspired by her own experience, Netane encourages kids to find courage and strength within the family through dance.

“When I wrote this story, I wanted kids to be able to have books where they can see like, oh my gosh, there’s my auntie,” she said.

A book mirroring her kids’ lives and inviting others to learn about her Samoan culture.

“Because they may not get to experience this on a daily basis, but they can experience it through this book,” Netane said.

Kealani Netane's book “Tala Learns to Siva."

Kealani Netane’s book “Tala Learns to Siva.” (Courtesy: Kealani Netane)

Serrao said it’s a fitting way for him to honor the main character in his life – grandma Judy.

“Her comments are like, “Little old me! There’s nothing special about my life. It’s special because it’s her story, and it’s for her posterity,” Serrao said.

If you wish to purchase either book, you can do so through the links below:

Matt Serrao's book, "Judy's Tree."

Matt Serrao’s book, “Judy’s Tree.” (KSL TV)

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Two local authors highlight the importance of family history for AAPI month