March 21, 2023
Culver Girls Academy students Linda Lin ’24 and China Whitehead ’26 have done something few high school students have accomplished: they’ve written books that are available in their school library.
Whitehead’s children’s book “Encourage Yourself” and Lin’s “Elysium Abyss” and “Buried Blue” are available for checkout at Huffington Library. Both girls wrote their first books while in eighth grade. Lin has written three books.
Whitehead started saving money when she was in second grade so she could self-publish a book. She thought a children’s book would be a good place to start, especially because she loves children.
She wanted to write something encouraging after seeing so many children struggling with depression because they were stuck inside at home during the pandemic.
“I wanted to encourage little kids to stay strong during this tough time and to stay strong through whatever challenges they face in life,” Whitehead said.
The main character is a girl of color, because, Whitehead says, she didn’t see many books with characters who looked like her while growing up.
“But it's not just for girls. It’s for boys and girls. I feel like that every child should feel like they're important and they should feel like they should encourage themselves and other people around them every day,” Whitehead said.
“Encourage Yourself” was published in 2021. She had hoped to publish in 2020, but she ran into some obstacles. She’s sold more than 100 copies.
Whitehead said as a child she loved reading books by Dr. Seuss, especially the rhyming. So her book rhymes. She originally wanted the book to be 30 to 40 pages long, but her mother told her children wouldn’t read a book that long and suggested the book be five to 10 pages.
The book is 13 pages of text and illustrations and includes 11 blank pages so children can add to the story on their own. The book is available on Amazon.
Lin said writing is an outlet for her.
“Whenever I feel too much or I feel too little, or I don't feel anything at all, I try to observe the things that happen to me and I write it down,” she said. “It’s like a personal growth type record.”
Lin said writing helps her reflect on what she’s been through.
“I like how when you put something down on the page, you make it real. You get to face the things you've experienced and you learn from it and you further prompt yourself to do better in the future.”
Lin’s goal is to become a successful lawyer and have a side job as a screenwriter. And if she makes it as a screenwriter, she hopes to have a dessert shop as a side business.
Lin’s first book, “The Isle,” was published in 2020 by EastWest Press after she won a writing contest while she was in eighth grade. The book is about four children who grew up on an island for “good kids.” They get in trouble and get sent to the bad island, known as “The Isle”, where they learn they had magical powers and realize their ancestors were related to the event they got in trouble for. The book is available on lulu.com.
Although Lin lived in Shanghai, China, when she wrote the book, it’s written in English because she attended a bilingual school.
Her second book, “Elysium Abyss,” published in 2022, is about a girl named Alexia Lively who is an arsonist whose family was killed by assassins.
“It a serious cycle of death, depression and dealing with things around the protagonist that are traumatizing,” Lin said. “There’s a magical realism that is incorporated into this book.”
Her third book is “Buried Blue,” illustrated by Angela (Naixin) Tang ’24 and published in February. It is a collection of prose, poetry and plays. It includes a science-fiction short story she earned honorable mention for in the Scholastic Writing competition this year. She also received a Silver Key for a memoir last year.
The second and third books are self-published, and, Lin said, she made a profit off the second book. They are available on Amazon.
She’s working on her fourth book, an interactive book that will help readers learn French.
Whitehead has started on her second book, which will be about the challenges she and her 11-year-old brother, Stephen Jr., have faced living in Portage, Indiana, where Blacks make up less than 9 percent of the population. Whitehead lived in Chicago until she was in eighth grade.
“As an author myself, I really just want people to hear experiences of people of color or other people just in general rather than the normal mainstream,” she said. “I'm so grateful that Culver has this diverse line of books. A lot of people want to ban certain books. A lot of those books have experiences in them that are really important for other people to know.”
She has tried to get her book into the library in Portage, but so far she’s had no luck.