Diversify Your Shelves: "Reclaiming Taipei with Want"

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Even before there was Ghost in the Shell, there was LUCY. Admittedly, it was pretty much agreed that LUCY was a crappy movie all round, but I only had to suffer the trailer to know that it was not for me. It opens with ScarJo kidnapped by Taiwanese mafia type, before she gives the bad boys the ass kicking they deserve. Asian mafia/triad/gang is a western media trope hollywood falls upon time and again. But what really got me was when ScarJo escaped, she was shouting “Do you speak English?” and then shooting Taiwanese who didn’t. Sure, maybe it was another triad baddie, but WTF ever. The fact that Hollywood did not see the heavily racist overtones of this opening scene is unsurprising… and infuriating.

So in one of the first major Hollywood movies where my birth city is featured on the big screen, ScarJo is shown gunning down Taiwanese men and demanding that they speak English. *insert appropriate RAGE gif here*

I joke that I write All Asian All the Time. But it’s not really a joke if it’s true, is it? WANT is my first near-future thriller set in Taipei with a cast composed entirely of Asian and Pacific Islander characters, and a Taiwanese hero featured prominently on the cover. 


WANT is the first YA set in Taiwan I am of aware of released by a bigger US publisher, and definitely the first YA SF. The cover art was designed by the amazing Jason Chan, and my audio book is narrated by Chinese American actor Roger Yeh. I had requested an Asian voice actor and my awesome audio book publisher honored that request! You can listen to a sample of Roger’s fantastic narration here

It hasn’t been an easy journey. Publishing is a rough business, period, but when you’re insisting on writing novels with basically entire Asian casts, your story is seen as too niche, an outlier. Asian Americans have been othered in western media from the beginning, and it comes as no surprise this was also the case in young adult novels. 

There is no greater compliment for me as a writer than to have a reader tell me they could see my books made into a movie, but also probably nothing as heartbreaking. I know my narratives are too western for Asia and too Asian for the west to garner interest from film or dramatic rights. It would be too much of a risk, too big of a leap. As Americans, we’ll accept immigrant stories from Asian Americans (and not much else), we’ll admire and ogle the “exotic” Asian backdrops, costumes, customs, culture, and women. But Asian faces will still be relegated to the background as side characters to provide some “authenticity” and lend to the Asian ambiance. 

These are not the stories I write, friends. And I will continue to put Asian protagonists at the forefront of all of my stories. I celebrate each publication as a triumph, and my heart is lifted by the young Asian American creators and storytellers I see rising to tell their own tales—to bring to life what we personally never got to see as young readers.

I’m so thrilled to share WANT with you, readers. I hope you fall in love with these characters and Taipei as much as I love them. 

Add WANT to your goodreads. (LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32333174-want)

 
 
 

*This post originally appeared at Diversity if YAand has been 

brought to you thanks to our partner, Cindy Pon!*

 
 
 
 
 
 

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Her most recent novel, Serpentine (Month9Books, 2015), is a Junior Library Guild Selection and received starred reviews from School Library Journal and VOYA. The sequel, Sacrifice, releases this September. WANT, a near-future thriller set in Taipei, will be published by Simon Pulse in summer 2017. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Learn more about her books and art http://cindypon.com.

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