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Interview with Chi-ya "Christina" Efird

Efird, Chi-ya
White, Emily
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification; Stories and Storytellers
Chi-ya "Christina" Efird discusses her memories of growing up and reading in Taiwan, the differences in how the US and Taiwan read new literature, and the importance of Ed Young as an author of children's books. She is a media specialist who feels that it is important to read to children, and she would like to author a children's book one day.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Emily White interviewed NC residents to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
EW (Emily White): Testing, testing. State your full name please.
CE (Chi-ya "Christina" Efird): My name is Christina Efird. My Chinese name is Chi-ya Efird.
EW: OK. What is your native language?
CE: It's Chinese. It's Mandarin Chinese.
EW: What is your occupation?
CE: I'm a Media Specialist at an elementary level. I used to be a public librarian, and before that I was an English teacher.
EW: OK. When do you remember hearing stories as a child?
CE: My earliest recollection was when my, um, great-uncles, they came to visit my grandpar, grandfather and they would just sit around and chat and telling stories on each other and, uh, you know just talk about, they are big on talking about what a good life we had at the time I was a child, compared to what they, what kind of hardship they had when they were growing up. So we heard a lot of those, um, perseverance-types of stories, and, uh, just basically like that. Like one of the stories I remember very clearly was, it was my uncle would talk about when my mother was growing up, uh, Chinese culture is very heavily favoring sons versus daughters.
EW: Right.
CE: And my mother was the only daughter, but of course my grandparents had to, um, adopt a boy to carry the blood line, so I have uncle, not by blood, but by, by um, adoption.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And, uh, my mother was quite smart in her schooling, but, um, when she was at a, at a, at an age that she was ready to go on to junior high, in, in her growing up days, she had to pass tests in order go on to junior high and she passed the test very well, but my, my, uh, grandmother wouldn't let her go--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: Wouldn't let her go, her education and she ended up had to work at home, and later on get a, got a job and not being able to continue her education. But she did eventually, after she got married and such, but my mother and my, my great-uncles, they'll be talking about those times. Um, like when my mother was begging my grandmother to let her go to uh, go to school. My grandmother would get mad--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And would switch her--
EW: [Laughs]
CE: And all that kind of stuff and I was just saying, "That's not real!" But--
EW: That's funny.
CE: Those kind of, you know, in, most stories to insp, to, to, to, um, like for self-discipline, for character traits, more than just fun stories.
EW: Do you remember being read to?
CE: No. Never, as I was growing up. Except probably in school.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: OK. That, that, yes. When I went to, and it's not pleasure reading, it's more like if we are studying a story in our textbook and our teachers read out loud to us or we take, take turn reading out loud, that kind of reading.
EW: Not a lot of time for independent, on your own, choose your own book reading \\ but more-- \\
CE: \\ You know \\, as I was growing up we really did, did not have a lot of those kind of things because, um, it's so heavily, it still is, heavily emphasizing the uh, studies, passing tests, passing entrance exams--
EW: \\ Academics--\\
CE: \\ Going to better schools. \\ Academics rather than cultivate a life-long interest of reading.
EW: Right. And do you read stories now?
CE: Of course. [Chuckles]
EW: Um, what kind? What have you grown to like?
CE: Um, all kinds really, truly. I mean, because my job I read a lot of children's literature and I love them. I think, um, in the States, truly, the children's or the publication or the publishing world is just the best of the world.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: With a lot of good authors, good stories, and good quality books to read. And of course as a grownup person I cultivate my own interest in gardening and cooking and I will read those books also. And once a while when I get time I read a novel. [Laughs] \\ Not very often! \\
EW: \\ Right, right. \\ Um, well I was going to ask what a favorite story from your childhood is.
CE: Uh-huh.
EW: Do you have a favorite story from your childhood?
CE: Yes. Um, as I was, you know, recalling some of my childhood experience, I remember when I was in elementary school, we had, we really did not have a school library.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: We had more like more or less like a depository place.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: In school. And they would have these crates of books. And, of course, we would like have like, like not, you know, book helpers and they would go to those depository places and get a crate--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: Of books and come back to the classrooms. We don't really have a D.E.A.R. reading time, now that I recall. But we would have a choice, that we can after we have finished our work we can go and choose a book that they would like to read.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And one of the books that I remember very, very clearly, it was kind of like a, it's not a strange story, but it's a knowledge-based kind of story.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: It was telling about an Aboriginal boy. You know, even in our land, we still had those--
EW: Right.
CE: Native people that used to live there. And who, who was learning or going on a fishing trip with his father.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: He had never been on a fishing trip with his father. And the fishing trip they were going on, they were fishing for flying fish.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: I was just fascinated! Because I had never--
EW: Yeah, the concept.
CE: The concept of, "Oh! OK, the fish does just fly into your net!"
EW: And they're trying to catch them! [Laughter]
CE: Yeah, but they had to go on the night fishing trip because these fish, uh, this kind of fish, they fly at night and so they, they would, you know, set up nets and stuff like that, that they fly or whatever, they catch it. I don't exactly remember--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: How they catch it, but I was just very fascinated at the time of, of you know being able to go on a trip and catching something--
EW: Right.
CE: And doing something you have never been doing.
EW: Have you ever tried to look up that book again to see if your concept would change, or if you, what you'd think?
CE: [Laughs] Of course being in the States would effect the real, the reality of, you know, finding that book again. But I often wonder about that book.
EW: Right.
CE: Wonder if I could still find that book and things like that. But I never did go back because, you know, once you started working you, you, you went on a different track.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And of course, once I was grown, I don't take those memory trips as often as, like I'm asked right now. [Laughs]
EW: Yeah.
CE: So, no I haven't.
EW: No.
CE: But I think I would still be very, you know, I would still enjoy that book just because I grew up reading it.
EW: Right, right. Yeah.
CE: Remember those good, good old days, fun time.
EW: Um, obviously you like to read to children, um, do you get a choice? Do you really get a lot of choice to choose and um, if you do, what do you tend to, do you tend to choose particular books--
CE: Uh-huh.
EW: Or, um, do you just like any kind to choose?
CE: I, it depends. If it is I'm trying to teach a unit, like an author study, I would choose only the author's books--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: You know, for very obvious reasons. And, um, job related, also because we have to do North Carolina Children's Book Award voting, so I'm doing like with second grade. I'm trying to read through all those books with them, so they will get acquainted.
EW: Right.
CE: And maybe later on, there will be more, I mean a lot of time when I talk with kids about certain books, they will try to look it up and read it later on. And of course those are all very quality books.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: Um, so it's, it's both.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: If I have my choice I will still be very focused. I don't just don't read for reading's sake.
EW: Right, right, you have a purpose.
CE: I'm very focused because it's my job. Yes. And um, um, some of them, I said that I'm supposed to read with the kids. In that case I'll try to find teachable points or things that I want to point out to the kids.
EW: Right, right. Are there any children in your personal life that you read to? Not on the job?
CE: Not on the job.
EW: Right.
CE: I'm tutoring one second-grader.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: No, not my personal life to read to.
EW: Are you looking forward to having children to, not having children, I mean, but like being able to do that and reading at night or something like that, a book at every night or?
CE: Yes, for myself. [Laughter] I mean, I, I read every night before I go to sleep.
EW: Right, right.
CE: That's just a, a habit I form and it calms me down and the really, kind of, kind of put a conclusion to a day. And that's how I do it. Some people watch TV and do other things.
EW: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
CE: But, you know, I prefer just reading before I go to bed.
EW: Right, right. Um, have you ever thought about writing children's books or writing in general to tell stories to write things down?
CE: I have and actually I think, um, librarians are very good at, good candidates--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: For writing children's book because not only you have lot of opportunity to, to have the contact with quality books. But also, you know, you would be very familiar with curriculum.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: But its still, its still is personality. I have not come to that point yet.
EW: Right, right.
CE: Maybe later on in life.
EW: Could get there.
CE: Uh-huh. I probably would like to try my hand on some of those things and, but I'm such a, you know, methodic person.
EW: Uh huh.
CE: It probably will be a very detailed step--
EW: Right, right.
CE: Rather than a spur of the moment. Oh, I've taught school twenty years. Of course I can write a book!
EW: Yep, it would be more--
CE: It would be different.
EW: Um, would you think that you are, um, you like to read more imaginative, um, fantasy type stories, books, or more realistic, um, non-fiction type?
CE: I really don't have a type.
EW: Um-hmm.
CE: I like books if they strike my fancy. I just like them, I talk about them. And that's how I advise children when they are making their choices. They should not be limited by types, authors, and such, because I think reading, reading is, is such a personal thing.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: It should be cultivated and developed rather than restricted.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: Um, of course, at school we have reading program sometimes that curtails that tendency a little bit. But I just ask kids, a lot of times to just go and enjoy themselves.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And that's how I look at reading.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: Um, I, I have favorite authors that attract me every time they have new books, have a new book, I will make an effort to locate them, locate the new books, and uh, read them and enjoy them. And many a time I, I, I will start talking and I have what I call "my book friends."
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And I'll just talk with friends about those books --
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: And just share those books with them.
EW: How did they get to be your book friends? Was that just from, kind of--? I think coming together?
CE: Yeah, it's a, it's a natural coming together because, um, being in the library profession people kind of
EW: Come together in that way, or, yeah.
CE: Assume that you are one of those people that enjoy books and enjoy reading and when they find, find some wonderful books, they'll just stop by and share // them with me. //
EW: // Share with you. //
CE: And I would, sometimes when I have wonderful books, and you know, a lot of the children's books are not for children.
EW: Right. Yeah, yeah, yup.
CE: An adult concept, grown-up.
EW: Adults can enjoy them, too and they, only, adult could get even though it's written in a kid format kind of thing.
CE: That's right. And one of the books that, one of my book friends is, uh, Mrs. Kessler.
EW: Uh-ha!
CE: And she just found this wonderful books and she would just drop, drop by my office and we'll talk a little bit and I was just sharing with her one of the books that I just rec, not recently read. I discovered it about a couple of years back, but I just recently got it for this library. And it was, uh, by a Chinese author, Ed Young. And he just does books so beautifully. I love it! And of course he tried to, um, retell some of the stories that I grew up listening to.
EW: Right.
CE: And he is a very great storyteller. I like the way she, he does stories and he tried to blend in the Chinese art of, uh, metamorphism and--
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: I just love! And this particular book is Voices of the Heart--
EW: Oh, wow.
CE: Which is a very grown-up book--
EW: Yeah.
CE: Because he tried to, um, tried to put the meanings together using the Chinese traditional calligraphies, which is coming from root words and different things, so he was using a very philosophical approach to analyze those words and sometimes it just hits you. And of course the medium is very pretty.
EW: Uh-huh.
CE: He does collage and beautiful paper and such.
EW: And so he writes in more of a story-telling type way, like you can almost hear him or not really?
CE: Yes. I would say so, yes. And you know like, Lon Po Po is his book.
EW: Right.
CE: And Turkey Girl and he just does beautiful book. And he's one of the authors I will always look up his new books.
EW: OK, Ed Young. OK.
CE: Ed Young.
EW: Right. I'll have to remember that. I think we are all set. I think I've got everything. Thank you very much!
CE: You're welcome!
RECORDING PAUSED THEN RESUMED EW: We have a little bit more. OK. Have you, um, observed, have you noticed a change from um, your childhood, um, ( ) to the States?
CE: Uh-huh. Um, I just took a trip this past summer back to Taiwan and, uh, because I'm in children's library so I'm, so when I went home I really paid attention to the quality and types of books they have these days, children's books in Taiwan. And I have seen a lot of American publications translated into Chinese and also very good quality, um, Chinese authors, Chinese children's books um, and many a bookstores, these bookstore, in Taiwan these days they have, um, like storytelling staffed by volunteers, parents trying to entice people to come in and, you know, see these books, use these books. Yes, the trend is very Americanized and I've noticed many a way that it has become that way. And of course I have not been home for a while, so that was one of those things that, um, I noticed and I'm glad to see it because I think reading with children in many way is so meaningful to young children especially. May not take us a lot of time, but children remember those things when they are growing up.
EW: Yes, yes. OK. Thank you.