Shirin Yim Bridges – Dastardly Dame or Glorious Goddess?

Shirin Yim Bridges is the author of the award winning book Ruby’s Wish, Horrible Hauntings, Dastardly Dames, Real Princesses and a new series called Glorious Goddesses. She is the owner of Goosebottom Books and affectionately referred to as the Head Goose. Shirin refers to her fellow writers at Goosebottom Books as “geese.” Her flock of geese are busy writing and getting ready to share 3 more books with us this year. Let’s get to know a little more about the winner of the Ezra Jack Keats award for Ruby’s Wish, Shirin Yim Bridges.

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Abby: Shirin, where were you born?

Shirin: Kuala Lumpur which is the capital city in Malaysia. We moved when I was 2 to Singapore. Then we moved again when I was 7 to Hong Kong. I spent a lot of my growing up in Hong Kong. When I was 16 I came out to the States.

Abby: Where did you go to school?

Shirin: I started school in Singapore. Then I went to an English/British expatriate school. So it was very much like Hogwarts except that there was no magic and it wasn’t a boarding school. We had 4 houses just like Harry Potter has 4 houses in his school. And they had us play sport against each other. Instead of quidditch we played field hockey. That is what the cool girls played. It was very, very Hogwartsy. I remember being in the states when those books became so popular. I had to disillusion a lot of my American friends that things like the houses, the heads of houses and the head boy in school are not really made up. That’s the way the English system is set.

Abby: Do you have brothers and sisters?

Shirin: I do. I have and older sister who’s also a children’s author. Her name is Natasha Yim. And in addition to writing children’s books she is also a very successful short play playwright. She specializes in 10 minute or 20 minute plays. And they have been staged all around the world. And my brother is also a writer. He actually likes to write screen plays. He’s had 2 short films made and he is working on getting a feature film placed. In the mean time he runs this company called Trigger which is a new media company. They are the people that helped us with the Horrible Hauntings ghost book. It’s the first book published in the U. S. using this new augmented reality technology. This new technology allows you to move an app onto your phone or your tablet and look through it the same way as if you are taking a photograph through the camera. And when you look at the pages in Horrible Hauntings you see these 3 dimensional ghosts appear. Not only do they appear but they’re interactive. And not only are they interactive but they are interactive in different ways. So every different story has a different ghost that you can play with. And all of the technology was done by Trigger.

Abby: I’ve seen the Horrible Hauntings book with the app and it’s amazing how the pages or should I say “spirits” come to life!

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Shirin: This new technology allows you to move an APP onto your phone or your tablet and look through it the same way as if you’re taking a photograph through the camera. And when you look at the pages in our book you see these 3 dimensional ghosts appear. Not only do they appear but they’re interactive. And not only are they interactive but they are interactive in different ways. So every different story has a different ghost that you can play with. And all of the technology was done by Trigger.

Abby: What was your favorite book when you were growing up?

Shirin: That’s really tough. I’m sure there were several. One that pops to mind almost immediately because I still have it is People in History. It was 3 inches thick at least. It was a huge middle grade chapter book. And each chapter was about a different person in history. I remember one a little bit later. It was a little bit more of a sophisticated book called The House of Wings. That was a very, very powerful book for me. I remember my mom before I was old enough to read reading a version of Pinnochio that hadn’t been “Disneyfied” yet so it was very dark and very scary. It was like reading a horror story every night. That was funny. People were being stolen and kidnapped. I don’t know why they thought it was a good thing to read to kids, really. But I remember that.

Abby: What was your inspiration for writing The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses?

Shirin: I was writing primarily for my niece because she had kind of gotten distracted by all of these Disney princesses. I wanted her to know that their are wonderful women in history, princesses in history who didn’t sit around waiting for a prince. So then the idea came to me that I should start my own company and publish the books instead of shipping them off to publishers. As an author, when you give them to publishers you’re basically relinquishing control.

Abby: What was your favorite book that you’ve ever written?

Shirin: It’s very hard to say because they are all your children. Probably Ruby’s Wish which was my first one. I think it has emotional connotations that the other books don’t have as much. It was about my grandmother and it was completed and published before my grandmother died. So that book holds a lot of emotion and importance for me. It launched my career in a really very dramatic way that I still feel the benefits of today. It won the Ezra Jack Keats and was nominated for over 25 awards. It was also selected by the U. N. as their token or mascot for girls education. And I was invited to go to New York and to meet all these ambassadors and talk about the importance of educating girls. So their is a lot that is wrapped around the book more than just the writing that makes that book very important.

Abby: What books do you and your “geese” have coming out this fall?

Shirin: This fall we have 3 goddesses coming out. It’s a new series called, A Treasury of Glorious Goddesses. The Glorious Goddesses are written as faux autobiographies. They are written in the first person. A contemporary modern young person with slight attitude.

In August we are launching Call Me Isis. This is the story of Isis the Egyptian goddess of magic. The story with Isis is that she is in many ways an entitled little princess. Isis thinks that she’s going to grow up and she’s going to marry Osiris. And she thinks she’s going to be the god queen of Egypt. All of this life is laid at her feet before her. And then of course she loses it all in a flash when Osiris is murdered. So then the story is about her struggle to come back from that and reorient herself and figure out who she is without Osiris around. Who she is independently. She turns into a very strong character in the end. She kind of effects change on her own terms. Call me Isis was written by Gretchen Maurer.

And then in September my book comes out which is Call Me Athena. She’s the Greek goddess of wisdom. And the thread that we tie together is that her story is a new kid at school story. She arrives and steps out of her fathers forehead and into an abyss. She becomes one of the 12. The rest of the 12 are all of the Olympians and other gods and goddesses that have been together for a millennia. They are deities so they have been around forever. And so she is new and she really doesn’t know where she fits and what she’s supposed to do about it. And she’s motherless, she’s self-conscious, and she’s basically a tween. And so she needs to figure out for herself where she fits in. That leads her through all of the adventures that were inspired by the ancient myths.

And the 3rd book is called Call Me Ixchel. Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon. This is a beautiful and really interesting series of myths that we weaved together for this book. Because Ixchel in mythology was actually a victim of domestic violence. In fact she married the sun god and the sun god beats her up. And so we really wanted to take this mythology on. Janie Havemeyer has done such a good job with that book. Ixchel is really spunky and really rambunctious. She’s a rambunctious little goddess and falls in love with the sun god. Then she gets into all of these adventures. Running away from home and everything and wanting to marry him. And then gets disillusioned when he turns out to be violent. And we don’t actually show the violence. You kind of see it building. And it gets to the point where he throws her out of heaven which is one of the myths. She goes down to the middle world and she has a sojourn there and he comes and asks her to come back again. She decides to go back with him and then she sees all of the warning signs come up again. So then she needs to make the decision. She comes to the realization that she’s strong enough to survive without him.

So it’s kind of neat that there are these themes of finding yourself, finding your own power, and finding your own place. This is what it feels like at this age because this is what they go through now a lot. They are cleverly, in my mind anyway, taking and weaving a storyline from all those ancient mythologies and introducing kids to these wonderful cultures around the world that they might not otherwise pay attention to. And then we actually have in the back of each book a non fiction section. If we’ve done our jobs right and you’re really interested in this world all this factual information like who were the ancient Mayans and what did they eat and what did they wear? Who were the 12 Olympians? All that kind of stuff is in the back as well.

Abby: Okay. Do you have anything that you want to say to your fans? Particularly those in the LGBT community?

Shirin: Well I’d like to say that I am a huge supporter of the LGBT communities and their rights. A lot of these stories that I write and publish, are stories about women. It might be feminist that we focus on women but it’s the women that exert themselves and express themselves despite society saying that they can’t or they shouldn’t. And I think that a lot of the LGBTQ community is right there. It’s all society, it’s all the fuddy-duddies telling you you’re not supposed to be one way or the other. So I’m all about being who you’re supposed to be. You know?

Abby: Agreed.

Shirin: And I think that’s what Goosebottom Books is about. It’s about, we have a catch phrase, we call it “Stuff Education.” We are trying to make a nonfiction or mythology, which is very close to non fiction, we are trying to make all of this stuff fun enough for kids to attract them to these topics in this world. We have strong princesses who don’t sit around waiting for a prince. We have dastardly dames who went out there and took power no matter what everybody called them. And we have these goddesses that can overcome obstacles just to figure out who they were and where they belonged. And that’s a journey that each of us go through as human beings. And that is a more difficult journey if you are female or you’re from a minority or if you are from any of these other communities. I think it helps if you have those stories out there and around them. You don’t have to hit them over the head with it but just having the books on the bookshelf they can see people who have made choices that at that time in history were not the prescribed choices. And they effectively changed the world because of the choices they made.

Abby: Well you being the head goose, you’ve stepped out there. Are you a dastardly dame?

Shirin: If you were to ask my brother he would say yes. He would say yes. Who am I to say that I’m a real princess? I’ve been asked that often and I’ve been asked if this is a feminist press. I never started out thinking of it that way but I guess it is. I guess it is. I guess I am and I guess that is what I’m about. It has been a huge risk. We’re not sure yet that it’s going to pay off. I need all of your readers to help us out by telling other people about these books. But it certainly has been a worth while venture. It really has. I was thinking that this started with my nieces and wanting to show that there are princesses who took risks and who asserted themselves. But by the same token you can’t be their aunt and not take a few risks yourself. Right?

Abby: I think you are right. I appreciate that you are leading by example. If someone were to start a series called Brave Broads the first book could be about Shirin Yim Bridges. Thank you Shirin!

For more on Goosebottom Books: http://goosebottombooks.com/home/pages/OurBooks

Shirin Yim Bridges blog: http://goosebottombooks.com/goosetracks/

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