The major impetus for me becoming fond of the Oz books was a second-grade production of The Wizard of Oz, in which I played the lead Munchkin and the Winged Monkey who grabbed Toto.
For Grace Lin, author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the Wizard production came in third grade. And it didn’t produce such happy memories for her. As described in a recent profile in School Library Journal:
An awakening of sorts occurred when her elementary school put on a production of The Wizard of Oz and, like all the other girls, Lin endlessly practiced for her audition in the playground, singing “Over the Rainbow.”I can imagine that happening among the kids at my school. Children in the early elementary grades are mighty rigid about the “right” way to do things. But would Grace’s teacher—in the early 1980s in upstate New York—have reinforced the idea that Dorothy as an American couldn’t be a Chinese-American, or corrected it?
Her career in musical theater was cut short in the third grade when a classmate said, “You can’t be Dorothy. Dorothy’s not Chinese. Dorothy is American.”
Her friend had called her Chinese. “But I did not feel Chinese. I spoke English, I watched Little House on the Prairie, learned American history, and read books about girls named Betsy and boys named Billy. But I had black hair and slanted eyes, I ate white rice at home with chopsticks, and I got red envelopes for my birthday. Did I belong anywhere?”
When the teacher called her name to try out for the play, Lin passed, saying that at the time she didn’t feel so much “angry, as stupid.”