“It all started when I was born,” began Emily Ford, 16.
Ford was born in China during the One Child Policy era—an extreme population control effort that limited most families in the country to one child except under specific circumstances. As an infant, she was left in a cardboard box in front of an orphanage gate in Yi Yang City.
She said this was likely because she’s a girl and the Chinese culture valued male over female children.
In 2004, Ford was adopted by an American family and brought to live in Manhattan Beach, a place she said has given her many opportunities.
But, the lessons of her past stayed with Ford.
“As a person who suffered gender discrimination very early in life, I was prompted to reflect on what contribution I can make to lessen intolerance in the world,” Ford said.
The high school junior, who attends an online academy, started a project to create a children’s story about acceptance in early 2017.
After almost two years of working on the project and using funds she earned tutoring children in math, Ford self-published a book: “My Totally Intolerable Blocks,” in December 2018.
The story tells of a child who helps his differently-shaped building blocks realize they are all of equal importance.
“I want to teach the benefits of tolerance and diversity to young minds,” Ford said about her book, which has since been picked up by a second grade teacher in the Ventura School District as part of the class curriculum.
“My hope is that by teaching this to children early in life, they will grow to realize that practicing tolerance not only benefits each one of us on a personal level, it increases diversity in our schools and work environments which produces growth and economic benefits for many.”
The Manhattan Beach local returned to the preschool she attended 13 years ago to read “My Totally Intolerable Blocks” to the children in the same classroom where she learned how to read.
Ford also donated 80 copies of the book to the school, in an effort to encourage teachers to initiate discussions about tolerance with their students, she said.
“I hope that they learn to accept each other’s differences because it’s important to accept others for who they are… and to teach them now, so that divisions don’t grow bigger as they age,” Ford added.
“My Totally Intolerable Blocks” is also available for purchase on Ford’s website https://www.raisingtolerance.com/, with all proceeds set to be donated to One Sky, a nonprofit that helps marginalized, at-risk children throughout Asia receive medical care, education and loving caregivers.
Through the sale of her book, Ford hopes to spread the message of tolerance on a broader scale and create a global conversation. It's a goal her mother, April Marano, believes the young girl is well on her way to achieving.
“Politically, I think the world is in a lot of turmoil and hopefully this generation will be able to quell that turmoil and do something about it to make peace in the world again,” Marano explained.