Asian Am Authors: KidLit, Asian Am Lit

Meet Wendy Shang: The Amy Tan of Children’s Lit (The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, ages 9-12)

Children's author Wendy Shang The Great Wall of Lucy Wu Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club best Asian American authors children's books
Meet Wendy Shang, a shining voice in children’s literature that actually portrays Asian Americans as we are — not nerdy, tweaky, math wizards — but nuanced balancing the tightrope of assimilating versus being Asian that we all walk. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is her first chapter book for ages 9-12 but it’s a break out! Expect it to win many awards this year. I can’t wait to read more of her work, so much so that I tracked her down for an interview.
Children's author Wendy Shang The Great Wall of Lucy Wu Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club best Asian American authors children's books
1) Tell me about growing up.Where did you live? Siblings? Where are you parents from? Any semblance of Tiger Mom or Dad?I still live near where I grew up – in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC – but it was quite different then!  It’s so diverse here now – you might see someone in a hijab working at the sushi counter or hear a call for any Nepali speakers at the library – but I was the only Asian student in my first elementary school for a long time (and I still remember the name of the second Asian student because I felt so relieved when she arrived).  My parents were born in China, but spent their young adult years in Taiwan before coming to the US.They were absolutely NOT Tiger parents.  When that book first came out, in fact, my mother was concerned that people would think she had been a Tiger Mom because my brother and I had done pretty well in school, become a doctor and lawyer, that sort of thing.  They certainly had high expectations, but it was up to us to get there.  Both of my parents gave us a lot of freedom in that regard, but did let us know that education was a family priority and that they were ready to make sacrifices for us. 
2) When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did your parents feel? What did you do to pursue?It’s funny – I LOVED to write as a kid.  I wrote my first book in kindergarten, won awards for writing in elementary school, and maintained a weekly “serial” with a friend in high school.  But somehow, making a career out of writing didn’t even seem like a possibility to me.  The idea of an author as a real, live person was a bit odd!I took up writing while I was a stay-at-home mom.  My parents were really supportive of me being a stay-at-home mom, and so moving to writing wasn’t a big leap to them, I think.  My husband, though, really hung in there for me, especially in the early days when I would leave him with three small children after he had a full work day so I could take a class on writing for children.  My first course was at the Writer’s Center with Mary Quattlebaum, and I remember just feeling electrified when I went to class.  It was probably a small miracle that I didn’t drive off the road in pure excitement. 
3) Your character, Lucy, seems to nail exactly what it’s like to walk the tightrope between assimilating and being Asian.How much of Lucy is you?There are aspects of me that are definitely in Lucy; I drew a lot upon my memories of feeling alienated as a kid.  But Lucy is really her own person.  One thing I really love about having LUCY out in the world is how many different people come to me and say, “My family is from [insert any country], but I really relate to your book!”
4) Do you have children? If you do or intend to, how will you raise your children with respect to their Asian heritage?I do have children.  I would say that the best thing I’m doing for them with respect to their heritage is living near their grandparents, where they can hear lots of stories and discussions about their family’s history.
5) What are you working on now?
I am working on a baseball book set in the 1970s.
6) What authors had the greatest influence on you?What were your favorite authors growing up? Now?When I was a kid, I really loved Judy Blume.  I felt like she really understood me, and of course, there was Tracey Wu from BLUBBER.  There weren’t a lot of Asian characters in pop culture aside from Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, and seeing a girl like me in a book was so gratifying.  I also liked Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ellen Conford and John Fitzgerald.  And to me, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is pure perfection.Right now, I’m going through a heavy boy phase, because I’m working on a boy character.  I really enjoyed Kurtis Scaletta’s Mamba Point, and Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now has just captured my heart as a reader and my mind as a writer.  On the “adult” side of reading, I’ll read anything by Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Ann Patchett and Jhumpa Lahiri. 
7) What advice would you give to someone who says that they want to be an author?I would say, don’t think about being an “author.”  I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by that.  Just think about writing.  Try to write a little bit every day.  Maybe write about what you ate, or look for a funny little situation that captures your imagination.  Write about something that made you angry or delighted or sad or puzzled.  Then after you’ve written a bit, go back and look at what you’ve written down.  You may hate some of it, but chances are, you’ll find something that you like and would be willing to write a little more on.

To view Wendy’s book at Amazon, just click on image of book. I also have reviews here on my other blog, PragmaticMom.

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11 Responses to “Meet Wendy Shang: The Amy Tan of Children’s Lit (The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, ages 9-12)”

  1. On June 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Edward Alipio

    responded with... #

    Mia, thanks for sharing this information! Its great to hear about up-and-coming Asian American writers. There were not many (if any) books about the Asian American experience for kids when I was growing up. Hopefully, many non-Asians will read these books as well. These will make good presents for my neice and nephews.

    • On June 20, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Edward,
      I really hope this wins a ton of awards to get the recognition it deserves beyond the Asian American community. It would make a great present; I think it’s the first time I read an Asian American chapter book for kids and thought that I could totally relate to it. I had the same feeling twenty five years ago when I first read Joy Luck Club. Thanks so much for leaving your comment!

  2. On June 20, 2011 at 2:11 pm Nathan Go responded with... #

    Very cool! I’m still a kid (at heart) and am planning to pick up this book. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • On June 20, 2011 at 10:41 pm

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Nathan,
      I think adults will love this book too! Thank you for signing up for Networked Blogs and leaving a comment!

  3. On June 22, 2011 at 7:48 am Wendy Shang responded with... #

    Thanks for the great interview, Mia, and congratulations on your fantastic new blog – I love it! I am happy to report that your prediction has come true – LUCY has received Silver Honors from the Parents’ Choice Foundation. Here’s the link: http://parents-choice.org/product.cfm?product_id=29594&StepNum=1&award=aw.

    • On June 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Wendy,
      Thank you so much for coming by! I can’t tell you how excited I am that you are here and how excited I was to read your book. You are doing ground breaking stuff by defining Asian Americans as we really are! Not stereotypes but nuanced, conflicted individuals trying to understand how to assimilate yet be true to our culture. How to be proud of who we are even as we are not blending in completely. And to respect our elders while forging our own path. I am glad that you are receiving some of the accolades and awards that you justly deserve and I am really excited to read more of your work! Rock on!

  4. On June 22, 2011 at 10:20 pm Jacqueline Jules responded with... #

    I agree. Wendy Shang is the Amy Tan of Children’s Lit and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is a wonderful book. It portrays Lucy’s culture realistically while at the same time showing the universality of her existence. All kids can identify with Lucy Wu.

    • On June 23, 2011 at 8:26 am

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Jacqueline,
      I think that is the beauty of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu! You totally nailed it — all kids an identify with her! I’m glad that you liked it as much as I did!!

  5. On June 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm Meg Medina responded with... #

    Just met Wendy this weekend at ChLA. Such a breath of fresh air! Am reading her book right now…and am looking forward to serving on an SCBWI panel with her in October.

    • On June 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Meg,
      You are so lucky to meet Wendy Shang! Thank you for sharing about her. I would have guessed from her emails to me that she is a really nice person. I hope to meet her one day!

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  1. Anthony Lee Choreography for Somebody That I Used to Know | JadeLuckClub - December 25, 2012

    […] my way. She is on her way to accept her APALA award for her wonderful middle grade chapter book The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. What do you think of the choreography? I asked my kids and they liked it a lot! Hey, if your […]

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