I am thrilled to share my interview with another wonderful member of my local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) chapter, Andrea Wang. In preCovid times, we were together at a variety of events and the last time I saw her in person she shared news about her then upcoming book, WATERCRESS and that it was being illustrated by Jason Chin. If you don’t already own a copy of this magnificent book, I highly recommend you pick it up on your next trip to your local indie bookstore. It is the perfect blend of text and illustrations creating magic beyond belief. Andrea’s latest book is THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN, a middle grade novel that shares the story of a Chinese American girl who experiences the loss of her grandmother and then the loss of her community when she moves from Boston’s Chinatown to a white suburban town in Ohio. I don’t do spoilers so, you’ll have to read THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN to learn more. Yes, add this one to your shopping list, too.
Andrea is generously offering an international giveaway! of one unsigned copy of THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN to one lucky winner. The book will come from Book Depository, so if you live where they deliver, comment on this post to enter the giveaway!
What were you like at the age of your target audience?
When I was around eleven, I was still a shy, quiet kid who was almost always reading a book or writing stories. Despite the slogan on my shirt in this photo, which reads, “Homework affects your vision,” I was a diligent student (with a sense of irony, apparently, since I started wearing glasses when I was eight). I loved animals, horseback riding, baking, and doing crafts. I also spent a lot of time by myself, daydreaming.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the interconnectedness of everything, which led me to study ecology in college. I’ve always loved puzzles and mysteries, so figuring out the relationships between organisms in an ecosystem felt like an extension of puzzle-solving. Likewise, I’m inspired by the dynamics between people, and between them and their environment. In THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN, I loved exploring the relationships between the characters and how their environments affected them.
What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from your books?
I hope that readers of THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN (as well as my recent picture book, WATERCRESS) feel more empathy for people from different countries, and also learn to embrace their own identities. I know that’s technically two things, but they feel like the two sides of a coin. You can be proud of your heritage while also being compassionate and understanding of people from a different culture.
What’s next for you?
My next picture book, LULI AND THE LANGUAGE OF TEA, comes out in April 2022 from Neal Porter Books. It’s about how a tea party brings together immigrant children from all over the world. I also have another standalone MG novel in the pipeline. Like THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN, this book has themes of identity and culture, but in a fun summer camp setting. I’m currently also working on a couple of historical nonfiction picture books featuring Chinese American characters that I’m very excited about!
To find out more about Andrea and her books:
Twitter: @AndreaYWang Facebook: Andrea Y Wang. Instagram: @AndreaWhyWang