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Redmond author's 'Sisters' focuses on people’s character, not their skin color

Amy, left, and Mia Laizans display Amy’s “Sisters” book and a photo of Mia and her friend Jada, whose story is featured in the book about the importance of one’s character, not skin color. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Amy, left, and Mia Laizans display Amy’s “Sisters” book and a photo of Mia and her friend Jada, whose story is featured in the book about the importance of one’s character, not skin color.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

At the age of 8, Mia Laizans already knew that it is what a person is like on the inside the matters, not the color of their skin.

But one day in the third grade, she and her best friend Jada found out that not everybody had learned that lesson. The two girls were sitting together on the playground at school when another schoolmate came up to them and asked if Jada spoke the same language as them — English. Mia, who is now 10, said her friend got very upset.

“It was kind of offensive to her,” she said about the question.

This was because Jada’s ethnic background was Filipino and their schoolmate had assumed she was an immigrant. In reality, it was Mia who was the immigrant — having moved from Redmond to Sydney, Australia with her family a few years earlier. But because Mia had lighter skin and looked like most of the kids at their school, her background was not questioned.

When Mia got home from school that day, she told her mother, Amy Laizans, about what had happened.

“She was really upset for her friend,” Laizans said about her daughter.

Laizans wanted to share her daughter’s story so she wrote “Sisters,” a children’s book about two girls who have very different backgrounds but are still best friends. The book was first released in Australia, where Laizans and her family were living at the time, but now that they have moved back to Redmond, local readers can also purchase the book at SoulFood CoffeeHouse in Redmond and Parkplace Books in Kirkland, where she has done book readings. “Sisters” is also available online at Amazon.com.

Laizans said she wanted to share Mia and Jada’s story for various reasons.

First, she wanted show that it is never obvious who is an immigrant and you should get to know a person before passing judgement. Laizans said when they were in Sydney for five and a half years, they lived in a very homogenous, white, upper-class neighborhood, so she could see where Mia and Jada’s schoolmate was coming from as the kids may not be used to seeing kids who look different from them.

Laizans also wanted to show her daughter that if you work hard enough, you could do something positive. She said at the time, Mia was struggling a bit in school.

“Sisters” is illustrated by Sophie Scahill, a friend of Laizans’ who volunteered to provide art for the book. Laizans said Scahill all of the illustrations were computer generated.

This is the first time Laizans has written a book.

“I didn’t know what to expect so it was just a whole learning experience,” she said.

Before she and her family moved to Australia, she wrote for a newspaper in Kitsap County. With this past experience, Laizans said transitioning to writing a children’s book was not that difficult — especially as “Sisters” is based on real-life events.

“It’s more natural for me to tell a story that is grounded in truth,” she said. “I’m a truth teller.”

Laizans said she would like to write more stories and currently has a few ideas saved on her computer. She said these new stories would have animal characters based on Australian wildlife.

One challenge Laizans faced was learning how to think in pictures rather than words since the book was for elementary school-aged children and the illustrations play a large role in telling the story.

When Laizans told Mia that she wanted to turn her and Jada’s story into a book, Mia gave her mother her blessing. Mia said the lesson in the story about not judging people based on how they look is a good one to teach kids.

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