Jen DeCristofo is the writer and illustrator of Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. Hybrid parenting got to learn more about her and her daughter. Jen, who defines her racial and ethnic background as American-born, Caucasian adopted her daughter from China at 14 months.
Jen wanted to provide her daughter with a better understanding of her cultural heritage. However, she was not able to find many relevant resources in her parochial community. Thus, Lucky Bamboo Crafts organically emerged as a rich resource for children who are Chinese and/or for all children who want to learn more about the Chinese culture. Jen’s background in educational publishing, writing, and art allows for this book to stand out as a must-have for parents and educators.
What inspired you to create Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts?
I’m an adoptive mom to a 14-year old girl from China. She came home at 14 months and is my only child. I stayed home with her until she started kindergarten and since then, I have divided my professional time between teaching and sharing Chinese crafts and culture, and doing project management for a higher education company.
Multicultural parenting, racial identity and cultural understanding have been extremely important areas to explore for me because we are a family of different backgrounds and races (I’m Caucasian, American-born), and also because I am raising my daughter in such a non-diverse area of northern New England. This has compelled me to “do the work” to build a solid foundation for her to help her find her place in the world.
As an educator, how do you help address the gaps in knowledge about the Chinese culture?
This leads me to my Chinese crafts book. It happened somewhat organically, as I accumulated projects and ideas when my daughter was young. I really felt a gap in what was available that was accessible to parents and educators that did not have much background in Asian culture or language, but had a passionate interest to share it with their kids.
Most of the China-themed resources that I found were too simplistic and lacked authenticity. This was my biggest challenge… easy, fun projects framed with strong educational content. I have a background in educational publishing, art direction, illustration and elementary art ed, so the process of developing the book merged a lot of my strengths. That was very gratifying! My daughter also helped a lot in numerous ways. I hope she is proud of me, and has yet another way of understanding how significant and fascinating her heritage is.
Once I had the book in hand, I had the opportunity to use it to share crafts with kids, while presenting my thoughts and experiences on being multicultural and also the role adoption has played in our family. It seems that with so much relentless focus on cultural and racial conflict and differences in the world today, any steps each one of us can take to share and educate across communities and borders is critical for the future of our young people.
What are your goals for Lucky Bamboo Crafts?
My future goals include a continuation of sharing crafts and presenting at events and conferences to spark interest in multicultural education and the value of being a world citizen. I have also launched a craft kit concept, which includes nicely packaged craft materials and prepared templates to immediately be hands-on with some of the projects in the book.