Football fans already recognize Mike Yam’s skill as a storyteller, but this season he’ll have a whole new audience: young readers. The NFL Network and SiriusXM sportscaster, a 2003 graduate of Fordham College at Rose Hill and an alumnus of WFUV, Fordham’s public media station, has released a picture book celebrating intercultural identity and cuisine. Inspired by his own life growing up with a Chinese immigrant father and an Italian mother, Fried Rice and Marinara shows kids that having a multicultural identity means having a unique, creative perspective. 

“I wanted … to have young readers see a multiethnic character in a lead role,” he said. “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,’ [but]  I really want young kids to be able to embrace their heritage and be proud of their background.”

Yam was inspired to write his debut book after a trip to a major chain bookstore during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. He found a skimpy few dozen children’s books featuring Asian male lead characters, an example, he felt, of the underrepresentation that persists in other media. 

In the picture book, it’s little Mikey Yam’s fourth birthday, and the menu for his party is causing a bit of a dilemma: Should he serve Chinese or Italian food? He decides he wants to honor both cultures and enlists his grandmothers to help him come up with a new fusion dish: fried rice with marinara sauce. It ends up being the talk of the town and uniting everyone.

This idea of honoring diversity yet coming together is one that Yam has shared before, in a number of op-eds on everything from immigration and racism to charting a path for future Asian American broadcasters.  

Since graduating from Fordham with a degree in communications, Yam, a former SportsCenter anchor on ESPN, has also been an active supporter of students at WFUV, leading workshops, listening to their demo tapes, and helping to connect them with internship and job opportunities.

A few years ago, as a guest on WFUV Sports’ “Off the Air” podcast, Yam told listeners that before he got to Fordham, his plan was to become a pediatrician. Chemistry turned out not to be his “specialty,” though, so he decided to switch gears. He thought back to his first year, when one of his friends got the opportunity to go cover a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden—thanks to his WFUV press credentials. So, Yam walked over to the station and met with Bob Ahrens, then executive producer and sports director at WFUV.

“I joined the radio station. … I’d argue it’s the best training ground in the country if you want to be a sportscaster,” he said. “And there’s some great programs nationally, but my heart’s always in the Bronx.”