A.B. What made you decide to write Wonder Talk?
R.F. "About ten years ago I had a dream one night and I heard a voice that said, "Do something for Tibet right away." Since I've always took my dreams seriously, I went to the library the next day to research Tibet, because I did not know anything about the country at that time. I learned the fact that Tibet had been occupied by China since 1959 and 12 million Tibetans have been killed, therefore, there have been 30 thousand Tibetan refugee orphans in exile in India, Nepal and Bhutan."
(photo courtesy of Rima Fujita)
"I am just an artist… what can I do to help?" I kept wondering for days. Then one day, I encountered a Tibetan photographer and became friends. He told me that in the refugee camp where he settled after fleeing from Tibet there were no books, pencils or anything. At that moment, an idea struck me: "I should produce a children's book!"
Then, I decided to produce a children's book on a Tibetan folktale that is dying out. I wanted the book in the Tibetan language in order to help preserve their own culture.
I spent one year interviewing elderly Tibetans and monks to collect the Tibetan folktales. "Wonder Talk" is one of six stories I had collected. I chose this very story because it simply shows how Tibetans are: they don't really lecture people. Instead, they guide you to come to your own realization. It is based on the Buddhist teaching and its wisdom.
Then I published the book, organized a big fund raising event, bought my own books (2500 copies) from the publisher and sent them to 81 refugee schools in exile. This is how "Wonder Talk" was made."
A.B. What message should young people take away from your story?
R.F. "The beauty of this story, I think, is how the Tibetans guide/help others to their own realization, instead of lecturing them what to do or not to do. It is based on Buddha's teaching: You must learn yourself. Also, they do it with wit and humor. Tibetans have an incredible sense of humor, and they are always joking and laughing. That is also their strength which helped them survive the hardship in their lives."
A.B. Your book is MOST interesting because it's written in both English and Tibetan Language.
R.F. "The purpose of producing this book was to help the Tibetan refugee kids preserve their own culture and language. Many Tibetan children who flee from China today cannot read Tibetan because their education in China was strictly in Chinese. I printed it in English also because not only the Tibetan kids should learn English, but all the children in the world should enjoy this story. I added Japanse, because this book was published in Japan and there is a large audience there who are interested in diversity."
A.B. I understand that you've worked with young people, please explain to SLJ readers your vocation.
R.F. "My mission is very simple. As an artist I use my art as a tool to convey messages to the world. When I was a child my house and school were filled with children's books.
I cannot imagine any child growing up without any books. However, that is the reality in many countries. Education is crucial for children, and books are the most important things for their early age development. Since that night of hearing the voice, my mission is very clear. I must continue helping the Tibetan children with their education.
I published my second children's book, "Wonder Garden" and donated 2000 books to 82 refugee schools in exile. For the third book, I am planning to spend more time researching what the refugee kids need in terms of the content. I want to make sure that I provide what they need, not what I want to provide."
I'd like to thank Rima for sharing her story and you can visit Rima's website by visiting here. I'd also like to wish ALL readers a healthy and happy holiday season.