NFL Network sportscaster Mike Yam celebrates cross-cultural identity in debut children’s book

LOS ANGELES – NFL Network sportscaster Mike Yam is releasing a delicious debut picture book celebrating intercultural identity and cuisine, “Fried Rice and Marinara” (Vooks). Inspired by his experiences growing up with a Chinese immigrant father and an Italian mother, his book demonstrates how a multicultural identity can give you a unique, creative perspective. In a world where Asian male leads are underrepresented, Yam’s book adds a new character that young readers can see themselves in. 

It’s Mikey Yam’s fourth birthday, and he’s facing a big dilemma: Should he serve Chinese or Italian food at his birthday party? Both his Chinese and Italian family members will be there, and he doesn’t know which one to pick! With the help of his trusty food gurus, his grandmothers, Mikey embarks on a mouth-watering adventure to create a one-of-a-kind fusion dish that will make his party the talk of the town. Mikey discovers that the best parties are the ones that celebrate diversity and bring people together through the power of food. Join Mikey’s journey and find out how two cultures can collide for a fusion of flavors to unite everyone!


“Fried Rice and Marinara”

Mike Yam | Vooks | Children’s | 9781737726951

Watch the fully animated video of the book!

Sample pages from the book



Mike Yam poses in the studio on Thursday, July 14, 2022 in Inglewood, California

MIKE YAM is a sportscaster and studio host for NFL Network and SiriusXM radio. He has worked at ESPN, NBA TV and Pac-12 Network. “Fried Rice and Marinara” marks his debut in children’s literature. Growing up with a Chinese immigrant father from Hong Kong and an Italian mother, Yam has always been fascinated by diverse cultures and perspectives. Yam is a passionate advocate for social issues and has authored op-eds on immigration and the Asian American community. Yam is a graduate of Fordham University and resides in Southern California.

Follow Mike Yam on social media:

Twitter: @Mike_Yam | Instagram: @Mike_Yam


Op-Ed: NFL anchor Mike Yam on unity being a great step toward ending racist attacks — NFL

How an Undocumented Immigrant Made Me the Luckiest Sportscaster in the World — Medium 

In conversation with Mike Yam, NFL Network anchor and children’s book author — Very Asian

My Personal Plea for Empathy: Racism is wrong no matter who it targets — Medium

Mike Yam Doesn’t Like Things To Be Easy — Barrett Sports Media

‘We’re going to miss him’: Pac-12 Network won’t be the same without Mike Yam — The Athletic

Mike Yam on Celebrating Multicultural Families — Vooks

Mike Yam Helping Set a Path For Future Asian-American Broadcasters — Front Office Sports

In an interview, Mike Yam can discuss:

  • His multicultural background with an Italian mother and Chinese father and expressing that culture throughout the book
  • Addressing the lack of male Asian authors and male Asian character leads in children’s literature
  • How it’s imperative to create more media for children in blended and multiracial families
  • His career as a sportscaster and how his work has led him to advocating for more diversity for Asian Americans in mainstream media
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in the broadcast industry
  • Future projects he’s working on

An interview with Mike Yam

1. Why did you choose to write a children’s book as your debut title?

During the course of my career, I have been fortunate enough to speak to students about a path in broadcasting. I have always been disheartened by the lack of Asian representation in media classes. Aside from cultural factors, I believe the lack of widespread representation at high levels of sportscasting is a major reason why Asian American students are picking other career paths. Strengthening the pipeline is one of the ways I think this changes. If young kids can see themselves in stories, I think it can spark an interest in storytelling. 

2. Why is this book so important for you personally?

As a kid, I didn’t think anything of the different cultures. I always knew I was Chinese and Italian, but as I got older, I realized that my friends didn’t have to think about or balance multiple cultural experiences that were very different. I also realized that many stories available for children didn’t always feature diverse characters. I do think for my generation not seeing much diversity in characters playing a leading role alters your thinking about a career path. Part of the reason I wanted to write “Fried Rice and Marinara” was to have young readers see a multiethnic character in a lead role. I also wanted to spark the thought that families with diverse backgrounds are normal. At times in my childhood, I thought I had to “pick a side,” which is weird to think about now. I really want young kids to be able to embrace their heritage and be proud of their background. I know for my family, food was a backdrop to everything we did. I wanted to use cuisine as a vehicle to bring the story to life.

3. Can you touch on how your day job — as a sportscaster and radio host — is similar in terms of diversity as the space of children’s literature?

The month of May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I went to my local Barnes and Noble to see what was being highlighted in the children’s section. I found one small rack that consisted of 31 books. Of the 31 books, only five had a male lead character. Seven of the 31 were written by two people. As I watch sports coverage on various networks, it’s disappointing to not see Asian Americans in prominent roles — lead studio host, play-by-play voice, color analyst, etc. At the local news level in top markets, the numbers are horrifically bad.

4. Were the characters in the book inspired by real-life family members?

The characters in the story are absolutely based on family members. Laura Dong, who illustrated the story, asked for pictures of relatives she could work off of. One of my twin cousins in the book is now married with three children. She is Chinese and her husband is Jewish. A few years ago, she asked me if I knew of any books about biracial children or books for Asian boys specifically. I wasn’t able to answer her question with a yes, but that moment was a catalyst for this story. I really felt like I could contribute to filling in a gap. 

5. What were some of the biggest challenges you came across when you were writing the book? What things did you find came easy for you?

I’ve spent my career telling the stories of athletes. I’m comfortable in that realm, but with “Fried Rice and Mariana,” it’s the first time I tried to connect with a young audience in a medium I’ve never worked in. I have always loved having fun with my nieces and nephews, telling them crazy stories at home. I tried to imagine telling them this story as if we were in person. No, I can’t rhyme on the fly like in the book, but it’s about the tone. I always love asking kids questions to see where their mind goes. If you notice at the back of the book, there is a page that gives kids an opportunity to write their own funky food combinations with the ability to draw them, too. It’s really important to me that the experience with the book doesn’t end when they’re finished reading it. 

6. Okay, we have to know: Do you have an actual recipe for fried rice and marinara?

I wish there was an actual recipe for fried rice and marinara. My skills in the kitchen are not strong, but I’m proud to say I never screw up boiling water. There was a moment in my high school Italian class that served as the inspiration for the title. I was talking about my background and someone asked about my family parties. I proudly boasted that we always had the best food — Chinese and Italian. One of my classmates joked, “Do you ever have fried rice and marinara sauce?” More than 20 years later, I still think about that moment and used it for the backdrop of the book. 

7. What other projects are you working on?

Aside from my duties on NFL Total Access at NFL Network, I have a few manuscripts I’m working on, but I’m trying to really focus on broadening the stories around Asian characters. When I was a child, I absolutely loved watching anything that included martial arts. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was really proud that Asian characters were cool because of that skill. As I’ve gotten older, I still really love watching those types of shows and movies, but I’ve grown frustrated that the stories don’t seem to always evolve into other verticals. I’m really focused on trying to incorporate my personal experiences as a backdrop to stories in which the characters are in more than just “traditional Asian situations.”

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