Tag Archives: Fonda Lee

10 New & Debut Asian American YA Authors

In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, here are 10 new and debut Asian American YA authors for you to check out. Support them today so they can publish more books tomorrow!

Sona CharaipotraTiny Pretty Things co-written with Dhonielle Clayton (HarperTeen, May 2015)
Get to know her: Goodreads Voice: Interview with Sona Charaipotra

Kelly Loy GilbertConviction (Disney-Hyperion, May 2015)
Get to know her: DiversifYA: Kelly Loy Gilbert

I. W. GregorioNone of the Above (Balzer + Bray, April 2015)
Get to know her: One Asian Book is Quite Enough (Diversity in YA)

Fonda LeeZeroboxer (Flux, April 2015)
Get to know her: Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Fonda Lee, Author of Zeroboxer (amithaknight.com)

Stacey LeeUnder a Painted Sky (Putnam, March 2015)
Get to know her: DiversifYA: Stacey Lee

Valynne MaetaniInk and Ashes (Tu Books, June 2015)
Get to know her: Valynne E. Maetani’s website

Caroline Tung RichmondThe Only Thing to Fear (Scholastic)
Get to know her: Me, My Daughter, and the Babysitter’s Club (Diversity in YA)

Aisha SaeedWritten in the Stars (Nancy Paulsen Books, March 2015)
Get to know her: On Asian-Americans and why we are #NotYourAsianSidekick (aishasaeed.com)

Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes (Razorbill, April 2015)
Get to know her: DiversifYA: Sabaa Tahir

Amy ZhangFalling into Place (Greenwillow, September 2014)
Get to know her: An Indies Introduce New Voices Q&A With Amy Zhang (Bookselling This Week)

New Releases – April 2015

Diva Rules by Amir Abrams (Dafina)

Book Description: Fiona Madison has being popular on lock. She’s everywhere everyone wants to be—and she knows just how to keep frenemies, haters, and admirers guessing. Fiona keeps it cute and knows how to turn a party out no matter how tough things get at home—or how lonely she really is. The only relationship a guy can have with her is BWB (Boo-With-Benefits). Anything more is a major not-going-to-happen…Until someone Fiona never sees coming is suddenly too close, understands her all too well—and is turning this diva’s life upside down…

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray)

“After a “goobery nerd” named Martin discovers Georgia teen Simon Spier’s secret email relationship with a boy who calls himself “Blue,” Martin blackmails Simon into helping him romance Abby, a new girl who has been welcomed into Simon’s lunchroom clique. The threat of being outed by Martin forces Simon to come to terms with his sexuality, and his wise insights—Why do only gay people have to come out? Why is that the default?—add heft to a plot that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. … [R]eaders will fall madly in love with Simon.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

“In 1997, a 12-year old girl from Hatfield, Pa., and a 14-year-old boy from Mutare, Zimbabwe, began a pen-pal relationship. In alternating chapters, Alifirenka and Ganda recount how their mutual curiosity led to an increasingly honest, generous correspondence. … Sensitively and candidly demonstrating how small actions can result in enormous change, this memoir of two families’ transformation through the commitment and affection of long-distance friends will humble and inspire.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (Arthur A. Levine Books)

“The odds against Henry and Flora becoming a couple are significant: Henry is white, Flora is black, and this is Depression-era Seattle. But their similarities outweigh their differences; at 17, they’re both orphans, musicians, and—unbeknownst to them—the current players in the centuries-old contest between Love and Death. … Brockenbrough (Devine Intervention) never sugarcoats the obstacles facing Henry and Flora’s love—whether human prejudices or supernatural manipulations—in this inventive and affecting novel, and the ending … is beautiful.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Changers Book Two: Oryon by T Cooper, Allison Glock-Cooper (Akashic Books)

“The body-swapping Changer who spent her freshman year of high school as Drew (Changers: Drew, 2014) now spends his sophomore year as Oryon. Changers spend each year as a different version, or V, and must keep their true nature hidden from non-Changer Statics. For Oryon, this means remeeting Audrey, the girl he fell in love with last year as Drew, as a stranger. … Oryon’s winning and witty narrative voice is consistently engaging. Unlike Drew or his parents, Oryon is African-American, and much of what he observes is about race. … Oryon’s humor and insight will keep readers turning pages.” — Kirkus

Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein (Feiwel & Friends)

“In Becoming Jinn, Azra is not your typical teenager, despite going to high school, having a crush on the lifeguard, and avoiding the resident mean girl. When she turns sixteen, she will receive her bangle bracelet that will allow her to grant wishes to humans. Azra is a genie (in training). All her life she has resented this upcoming birthday and being trapped for the rest of her life doing what she is told, rather than what she wants to do. Her birthday arrives, along with the dreaded bangle and some surprises about her unexpectedly strong abilities. … The genie theme is original and appealing (vampire story lines are mentioned for a laugh). Azra is likable; her struggles—even factoring in the genie issue—are real and relatable.” — VOYA

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio (Balzer & Bray)

“Cross-country runner Kristin Lattimer is devastated when an OB-GYN diagnoses her with androgen insensitivity syndrome, an intersex condition.Exuberant after being voted queen at the homecoming dance, Kristin decides she’s finally ready to have sex with her boyfriend, Sam. Their attempt at intercourse, however, turns out to be prohibitively painful, and Kristin promptly schedules an appointment with her best friend’s gynecologist. Her pelvic exam and a series of follow-ups reveal that Kristin has AIS. … The particulars of AIS are explained in matter-of-fact detail and filtered effectively through Kristin’s point of view. … Sensitive, informative and a valuable resource for teens in Kristin’s shoes.” — Kirkus

The Truth About Us by Janet Gurtler (Sourcebooks)

Book Description: The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up. She’s made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she’s paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is. She pretends it’s all fine. That her “perfect” family is fine. But it’s not. And no one notices the lie…until she meets Flynn. He’s the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.

The truth is that Jess is falling apart — and no one seems to care. But Flynn is the definition of “the wrong side of the tracks.” When Jess’s parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don’t get that the person who shouldn’t fit in your world… might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.

Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University by Francisco Jiménez (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Book Description: In this fourth book in his award-winning memoir series, Francisco Jimenez leaves everything behind in California—a loving family, a devoted girlfriend, and the culture that shaped him— to attend Columbia University in New York City. With few true accounts of the Latino experience in America, Francisco Jimenez’s work comes alive with telling details about the warmth and resiliency of family and the quest for identity against seemingly impossible odds.

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger (Scholastic Press)

“Seventeen-year-old broke-ass Sonny (nee Sonya) can’t bring herself to tell the truth, especially when it means playing a sort of twisted Cyrano via her BFF, Amy, to nab the hot, new hipster boy at her school, Ryder. She finds herself up all hours of the night chatting and instant messaging with him under the guise of Amy, at whose house she’s crashing since her mom has kicked her out of her own house. At first it’s all fun and games (neither girl really wants to go out with him), but when she finds that she truly does have feelings for Ryder, the truth begins to come out, and the cost is high. … Keplinger creates vivid, believable characters that are full of spunk and joie de vivre. She plunges them into an utterly realistic work that feels familiar and contemporary. … Fierce, fresh, total fun.” — Kirkus

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee (Flux)

“Carr Luka is the king of the Cube, a zero gravity cage fight arena. In his upcoming championship fight, Luka will represent Terrans against a Martian colony and his supporters will cheer, ”Make him float!“ highlighting the grisly implications of a knockout. Luka’s confidence is shaken, however, when a visit to his mother reveals that his physical prowess is a result of illegal genetic enhancements, making his participation in the sport potentially criminal. Zeroboxer is a delicious mix of two genres: sports and science fiction. The colony rivalry and futuristic details are riveting, and martial arts followers hungering for fight action will not be disappointed. … This gripping sci-fi novel will have teens screaming for a sequel.” — School Library Journal

Legend: The Graphic Novel by Marie Lu (Putnam Juvenile)

Book Description: Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a military prodigy. Born into the slums of the Republic’s Lake Sector, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives are not as sinister as they often they seem. One day June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Now, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June tries desperately to avenge her brother’s death. And the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together and the lengths their country will go to in order to keep its secrets.

Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty (Month9 Books)

Book Description: In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever. Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid (Arsenal Pulp)

“Reid introduces readers to Jude, a gay teen who fantasizes about being a movie star. Jude, who has been given the nickname Judy by some classmates, is fairly comfortable with his sexual orientation as well as his desire to wear his mother’s beautiful dresses and makeup. In order to deal with the homophobia he confronts at school and home, Jude slips into his fantastical life as a movie star constantly tortured by paparazzi. … This story is a whirlwind of gender-bending drama with plenty of pop culture references.” — School Library Journal

Taking the Stand by Juliann Rich (Bold Strokes Books)

Book Description: There’s a time for justice. Then there’s a time for action. And Jonathan Cooper knows exactly what time it is.

It is time to lie. To his parents, who think he’s on a ski trip with Pete Mitchell when he’s really gone to Madison to search for one person willing to testify for his boyfriend, Ian McGuire, who is facing the charge of assault and battery. To Ian’s parents, who have erased him from their lives. Even to himself. Because admitting his feelings for Mason Kellerman isn’t an option.

It is also time to face the truth. That Jonathan may have lied for nothing. That he may be powerless to save Ian from a guilty verdict. That whether he likes it or not, it is time for taking the stand.

Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

“Fig is six years old and spends a lot of time worrying about her mother, Annie. Her mother talks of fairy land, feral dogs lurking in the woods, and the importance of rituals. It is only after her mother attempts suicide that Fig learns the truth: her mother is schizophrenic. The story unfolds over the next 11 years, detailing the many ways Annie’s schizophrenia changes her and affects her family. Through it all, Fig remains determined to save her mother. … The teen exhibits many troubling behaviors and is eventually diagnosed with OCD, but her health is overlooked as the focus remains on her increasingly unwell mother. … This dense, literary tale starts slowly, but builds to become an incredibly haunting story about mental illness and family bonds.” — School Library Journal

The Shark Curtain by Chris Scofield (Akashic Books)

“In this novel set in 1960s Portland, OR, 14-year-old Lily Asher hears voices. Not just any voices—Jesus (SOG, as she calls Him), her dead dog, and others regularly make appearances in her mental world. She also feels as though she is becoming a dog, believes that she’s growing a tail, and often randomly barks. Her highly active imagination is frequently misunderstood. The teen is dubbed a ”weirdo“ by her younger sister and has few friends. Her unconditionally loving but completely dysfunctional parents try their hardest to help Lily deal with her schizophrenia. … The family, despite their plethora of issues, genuinely loves Lily and each other. This is a difficult story to read in part because the author brings readers into Lily’s mind so successfully.” — School Library Journal

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (HarperCollins)

“With lyricism and potent insight, Shusterman (Unwind) traces the schizophrenic descent and return of Caden Bosch, an intelligent 15-year-old and a gifted artist. His internal narratives are sometimes dreams, sometimes hallucinations, and sometimes undefinable, dominated by a galleon and its captain, sailing with an enormous, sullen crew to the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, Challenger Deep. … Shusterman has mined personal experience of mental illness with his son Brendan, whose line drawings mirror Caden’s fragmentation in swirling lines eerily reminiscent of Van Gogh. It’s a powerful collaboration, and crucial to the novel’s credibility.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill)

“As one of the conquered Scholar people, Laia has grown wary of the ruthless Masks that enforce the Martial empire’s laws. But the lesson doesn’t hit home until Masks imprison her brother for aiding the Scholar Resistance. Desperate to save him, Laia agrees to spy for the rebels as a slave in Blackcliff, the hellish school where Masks are trained. … Tahir’s deft, polished debut alternates between two very different perspectives on the same brutal world, deepening both in the contrast. In a tale brimming with political intrigue and haunted by supernatural forces, the true tension comes from watching Elias and Laia struggle to decide where their loyalties lie.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Envisioning a Diverse Science Fiction Future

By Fonda Lee

lee-zeroboxerBy now, we all know that diversity in books is a big deal. We’ve seen the statistics about how the skewed demographics of protagonists in YA novels doesn’t come close to reflecting the reality of our society. We’re aware that readers are very much in need of books that present minority perspectives in both historical and current day stories.

But how does the concept of diversity come into play when you write, oh, say, action sci-fi about futuristic zero-gravity prizefighting?!

My novel Zeroboxer released last week, and amid the reviews describing it as “gripping,” “smart,” and “action-packed,” nowhere is it being hailed as advancing the cause of diversity or shining a light on underserved segments of the population. It’s just not that kind of book, nor was that my intent as the author. However, writers like me, who write commercial genre fiction, play as much a role as anyone in making sure diversity is part of the literary landscape. We all make choices in our writing that send messages to readers.

Remember the 1996 alien invasion movie Independence Day? It might as well have been sub-titled America Saves The World because in the film, the population of Earth presumably sits around waiting for the Americans to figure out how to defeat the aliens before belatedly joining in to support Bill Pullman’s heroism. Contrast that with the 2013 film Pacific Rim, which depicts a diverse cast of characters waging an international effort to combat the Kaiju monsters. Both films are big-budget commercial spectacles—but the choices the scriptwriters made regarding characters, story, and setting result in very different depictions of the future—one far more inclusive and diverse than the other.

When I was a child, I devoured fantasy and science fiction that was, to put it gently, lacking diversity in all respects. They were written in different times, but it’s still a downer to look back on works that I greatly enjoyed and realize now, as an adult, how misogynistic and euro-centric they are. When I was creating the futuristic world of Zeroboxer, I thought about what kind of future I wanted to portray. More accurately—what kind of future would be plausible. Because any plausible future that extrapolates from our society today would be a diverse one.

In Zeroboxer, humans have colonized the inner solar system, and Mars is emerging as the fast-growing, more economically and scientifically advanced planet. In many ways, the relationship between Earth and Mars has parallels to our current global state—the economic rise of Asian countries in the last several decades, and the resultant anxiety that has provoked in the West.

That’s reinforced by assumptions that I make in my world building; the early colonists of Mars would be ones motivated to leave Earth because of environmental chaos and limited economic opportunities. They would come predominantly from parts of Asia and South America disproportionately affected by climate change and overpopulation; only a minority would hail from first-world nations like America that are already at the top of the pecking order on Earth.

So in the future, Mars has cities like New Nanjing, and a space station named after the Hindu sun god. The main character in Zeroboxer, Carr Luka, has a girlfriend that is half-Martian of Asian descent, and back on Earth, mixed race lineage is so prevalent that it’s a marketing boon that Carr is an ethnic mash-up and thus representative of typical Terrans. The future is diverse—but it’s not without problems. New racial tensions emerge between Martians, who’ve embraced genetic enhancement, and Terrans, who’ve outlawed it. None of these aspects of the story ever takes center stage in my high-action sports sci-fi novel—but they’re there, subtly but deliberately painting diversity into the background.

Even so, sometimes you slip up. In one of my early drafts, I had Carr fighting a major match on Thanksgiving Day. One of my beta readers astutely pointed out, “Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Isn’t this an international city space station? Why would Thanksgiving be a big deal?” Good point, and nice catch. It saved my book from an Independence Day style gaffe.

Diversity isn’t just a cause to be advanced by authors who write “issues novels” about characters living in the Civil Rights era, or immigrant stories, or coming out as gay in small town stories. All those stories are incredibly important and will always be the ones that get spotlighted for exemplifying minority perspectives. However, just because you’re writing sci-fi thrillers, romance, or funny middle grade books about dinosaurs, doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the conversation. If anything, unsung depiction of diversity in commercial genre fiction is the subtler and truer measure of progress.


fondalee

Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. She is the author of the high-action YA science fiction novel Zeroboxer (Flux/Llewellyn, April 2015). Fonda is a corporate strategist who has advised and worked for several Fortune 500 companies, a black belt martial artist in karate and kung fu, an action movie buff, and a fan of tasty breakfasts. Born and raised in Canada, she now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Zeroboxer is available for purchase.