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Sister, Sister
By Tim Cross

Ming Chen (left) and Wah Chen '92

"No, no, Mama! Take them back! Manuella's shoes are from the rack," complains the title character about her sister's hand-me-downs in Sassparilla's New Shoes, a children's book co-authored by twin sisters Ming Chen and Wah Chen '92. In the 40-page hardcover, which is written entirely in verse, Sassparilla imagines all the types of shoes she would prefer to her sister's, then takes the old pair and uses her imagination and creativity to produce a unique pair that reflects her own taste.

Although now collaborators - and identical down to their fingerprints - the two sisters didn't follow the same academic track. While Wah went to Columbia, Ming attended Harvard (Class of 1992), where she later earned an MBA. After their college graduations, both worked for a while in Asia, where Wah was an on-air television host and reporter and Ming became a presenter on a pan-Asian cable channel.

Wah says it's ironic that both ended up on television "because growing up we rarely watched TV. We've always had much more of an affinity for books." Inspired by the example of their father and uncle, who co-authored several medical books, Wah and Ming began collaborating on writing for children when they were college juniors. This is the duo's first book.

Sassparilla's New Shoes was illustrated by Mariko Jesse and Adam Bartley and is focused on the "pre-professional, under-12 set," as Wah describes the target audience. In writing the book, the sisters were inspired by their own background. "We feel strongly about making our heroines look Asian, but let them star in stories that are universal," says Wah. "We grew up with few books that featured multicultural characters, and [creating them] has been a motivating force."

Despite positive responses to the book (the 11 customer reviews on Amazon.com all give the book five stars) and a desire to write more, neither sister is quitting her day job just yet. Wah is a book editor at eToys, a Los Angeles-based Internet firm, while Ming is vice president of global marketing for Boston-based EF Education.

Sassparilla's New Shoes is published by E.M. Press and sells for $19.95.

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