Posts Tagged ‘Dragon Chica’

Here’s the most recent list of the upcoming events celebrating the launch of my new novel, Tiger Girl! All events are free and open to the public!

Fall 2013 Events:

Saturday, October 26, Tiger Girl Launch Party at Books Inc/Opera Plaza in San Francisco, 5pm.

Monday, November 4, Reading at Writers on Writing series at San Francisco State University, 7:00 pm.

Tuesday, November 26, Reading at Barnes & Noble bookstore, in Redlands, California at 6: 30 pm.












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Here’s an sneak peek at TIGER GIRL, my new novel coming out in stores and online this October 7, 2013.

Check out this four-minute excerpt:

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Video interview about my new novel, Tiger Girl, family, secrets, and hybridity! We also talk about some of my other books, including Hapa Girl, The Girl from Purple Mountain, and Dragon Chica.

And you can read more about it by clicking on the Inlandia Literary Journal blog.

Much thanks to John Bender, Metro Editor of the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise newspaper; Orlando Ramirez, editor of La Prensa; and Cati Porter, executive director of the Inlandia Institute.

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I just received an advance copy of Tiger Girl, my novel that’s officially coming out this October!


My publisher, GemmaMedia, sent me a few copies in advance of publication so that I could see the cover and layout. I’m so excited!

It’s gorgeous! Much thanks to Howard Wong of Grace Image Photography in San Francisco for the cover design.


The story follows Nea Chhim, the protagonist of Dragon Chica, on a journey to find her biological father. They were separated because of war and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. In Tiger Girl, Nea directly confronts her past and tries to reunite the multiple missing branches of her family. However, as is so often the case with good intentions, Nea’s quest does not turn out as she anticipated. To find out what happens, look for Tiger Girl in bookstores (or online) this October!

Mark your calendars: The book launch party will be held at Books Inc./Opera Plaza in San Francisco on October 26, 2013, beginning at 5 p.m. Cambodian American singer Laura Mam will be performing an acoustic set in Khmer and English!

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Here is an essay I wrote for the diversity series at  ForeverYoungAdult.com.
(You can check out their website and follow them on Twitter @4everYA for more YA news, tips, and interviews!)

Heck YA, Diversity!: Are ‘Ethnic’ Heroines a Tough Sell?

Author May-lee Chai stops by to discuss the trubs she had with publishing her “ethnic” heroine book, Hapa Girl — and how her following books (Dragon Chica and Tiger Girl) found a home with the YA crowd.

Heck YA, Diversity!: Are ‘Ethnic’ Heroines a Tough Sell?

For this week in Heck YA, Diversity!, we’re pleased to be joined by May-lee Chai, author of Hapa GirlDragon Chica, and the upcoming Tiger Girl, who shares her personal experiences in getting books with “ethnic” heroines published.

Are “Ethnic” Heroines a Tough Sell?
by May-lee Chai

A number of years ago, I was working on a memoir about the violence my family encountered when I was growing up. When I was twelve, we moved from the New York City metropolitan area to rural South Dakota where people used to stop their cars and pickups to stare at us as we walked together on the sidewalk. We were the first mixed-race family with a Chinese father and a white mother that people in that community had ever seen. It was a town of five thousand residents, ten bars, and a university. My parents had assumed because there was a university there, people would be more tolerant. But that wasn’t the case.

My parents had bought a small farm, and men took to driving by our house on the weekends to shout racial slurs at us. As this was the 1980s and the time of Japan-bashing in the media, many of those slurs were “Jap!” or “Japs!” Later men took to shouting at our property and over the years five of our dogs were shot dead in our driveway.

Adults as well as some of my classmates told me to my face that the Good Lord had not intended for the races to mix and that’s why he’d put them on separate continents. (This notion, by the way, was one of the reasons a judge in 1965 ruled that interracial marriage should be illegal.) I was seen as a sign of the End Times, of a coming Apocalypse when Satan would reign on Earth. Mixed-race people like me simply should not exist.

Well, that was a tough environment to grow up in, as you might imagine! But I thought it was very good material for a memoir. I’ve got inherent drama, conflict, and a survival story. Hey!

I’d been working on the manuscript for a while when a literary agent with a list of very famous clients said she wanted to represent the book. I was naturally thrilled. However, I soon discovered her idea of the book was very different from mine. She told me she wanted me to focus on my father and mother’s marriage and to eliminate my brother and me from the book. (I just got removed from my own memoir! I thought. How the hell do I write that? Who’s going to narrate?) Then she said she wanted me to focus on “the good people of South Dakota” (rather than the racists who shot and stared) and write about my parents’ “cultural” differences and how they overcame them.

Well, how exotic, I thought. And I told the agent that I couldn’t re-write the book in that way. It just wasn’t my conception of the story.

The agent’s reaction was so alarming and upsetting to me that I didn’t try to contact another agent. Instead I ended up selling the book myself to an academic press (Temple University Press) who published books about Asian American history. Academic presses and small presses don’t need agents to send manuscripts to their editors; they will work directly with authors. The decision worked out well for me. My memoir, Hapa Girl,  received a great full-page review in the international edition of Time magazine and received a number of literary accolades. It continues to be taught in colleges and universities across America. Eventually, I also found a wonderful agent who understands what I’m writing about and knows how to represent my work.

But part of me wonders how many other writers out there get discouraged from writing the stories they wanted to tell by the same kind of sh*tty “advice” that had been given to me. And how many of these writers don’t persist and find another agent or don’t know how to approach a press on their own? What if they just take the rejection to heart and give up? Or worse, try to write the kind of bland story that they’re told to write?

I think part of the problem is that there are people in the publishing industry who underestimate readers. One of the great things about the YA field is that editors assume readers want a grittier kind of story. Adolescence sucks. It really does. Growing up is hard. School can be brutal. Families and community can let us down. And young adult readers know this. They’re not looking for a pretty, bland story that’s been watered down for mass consumption.

For this reason, I thought my novel Dragon Chica would work for a young adult audience. It’s the story of a young Cambodian girl, Nea Chhim, facing down adversity from poverty to gangsters to family fights as she grows up in the Midwest. I tried to tell the story in a way that the character and her family and their problems felt real to me, and so that the reader could get to know them. Dragon Chica (GemmaMedia) ended up doing very well with YA readers. The YA genre attracts so many people, young and mature, because readers have discovered this is where the gritty books get published.

My next novel Tiger Girl, which continues the story of Nea Chhim in America, is also going to be marketed as YA. In some ways, I think it can be easier to have an “ethnic” heroine in a YA novel than in a book marketed only for the adult literary crowd.

The problem is not readers. I know there are a lot of readers—of all ethnicities!—who want to read interesting stories with interesting characters and strong heroines. Perhaps because of what has historically been sold, perhaps because of what Hollywood continues to mass produce, some people in the industry are indeed afraid of “ethnic” heroines. They worry that they won’t appeal to a mass market. They don’t know how to market them. Then they worry when the heroine doesn’t seem exotic enough.

And bringing in a person of color means we’re also bringing up history and race in America. Those are tough subjects. They are not bland.

Sometimes when we talk about race and racism, (I know because I’m a teacher), people think the r-word means “I hate white people!” and they’re afraid to listen. White people don’t want to get beat up, figuratively or literally, any more than anyone else does. But acknowledging a character’s ethnicity allows us to talk about history and community and how power is constructed and how we have to fight against this power divide if we’re going to survive as individuals and as a nation. We shouldn’t be afraid because we really need to have this talk.

Besides, that’s what the best novels allow us to do: Enter scary terrain and emerge all the stronger for it.

Thanks for stopping by, May-lee! Check out her website or find her on Twitter (@mayleechai).

(originally posted on the Forever Young Adult website: Published June 28, 2013 by )

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I’m speaking this Saturday at the “Women Writers: inspired by Life” seminar in Beverly Hills. The event is co-sponsored by the Huntington Women’s Studies Steering Committee and the Feminist Majority Foundation. It’s free and open to the public. See details below (from the Huntington Women’s Studies Steering Committee Blog):

May 11: Women Writers: Inspired by Life

Saturday, May 11, 2013, 10:00 a.m. – noon
Feminist Majority Building, 433 S. Beverly Blvd., Beverly Hills
The Huntington Women’s Studies Seminars Steering Committee
in collaboration with the Feminist Majority Foundation presents:Women Writers:  Writing Inspired By Life

Michele Kort

Senior editor, Ms. Magazine, author of Soul Picnic:  The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro,
The End of Innocence:  A Memoir (co-written with Chastity Bono) and Dinah!  Three Decades of Sex, Golf and Rock & Roll, and co-editor of Here Come the Brides:  Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage

Lynne Thompson

Poet and author of the poetry collection Beg No Pardon
and the chapbooks We Arrive By Accumulation and Through a WindowFelicia Luna Lemus
Author of the novel Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties and Like SonMay-lee Chai
Author of the novels My Lucky Face, Dragon Chica, the short story collection Glamorous Asians,
and the memoirs Hapa Girl and The Girl From Purple Mountain

Introductions:  Wendy Smith, Elline Lipkin, and Karon Jolna

Karon Jolna will announce the new Ms. Magazine “Reading Circles” book club.
Our guest writers will have books available for purchase and signing.

Please come early, as space is limited. Metered parking available on Beverly Drive;
limited free parking behind building (enter on Beverwil).

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I saw the cover for my new novel, Tiger Girl, for the first time this week. And it is GORGEOUS!

I’m so excited that I just had to share it with everyone!


TIGER GIRL is coming this October 2013 from GemmaMedia.

Tiger Girl continues the story of Nea Chhim, the heroine of my novel Dragon Chica.

Plot: Nea is struggling with college. Nightmares of war flood the waking memories of this 19-year-old survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Nea decides she must confront the past to overcome her fear and begin her own life in America.

Without telling Ma, she hops on a cross-country bus in Nebraska to see her biological father in Southern California. There Nea comes face to face with a man wounded by survivor’s guilt who refuses to acknowledge the family’s secrets. Nea decides to revive his struggling donut shop and help him recover. Her tireless efforts attract a mysterious young man’s attention. Is he casing the place for a gang? she wonders. It is up to Nea to find out the truth: about her family, the war that nearly destroyed them, and herself. Tiger Girl weaves together Cambodian folklore and its painful past with contemporary American life to create an unforgettable novel about love, war, and acceptance.

Advance praise:

“An original storyteller writing a book about the need for a young woman’s love, her cross-country journey that is also an inner journey, and her surviving, with others, a life they weren’t meant to survive. This is their story. I couldn’t stop reading. This is a writer to follow on her own journey of words.”–Linda Hogan, award-winning author of The Book of Medicines and Indios.

“Like many of her characters, May-lee Chai is a masterful storyteller with a poignant and gripping tale to tell. I couldn’t put TIGER GIRL down: I wanted to know what was going to happen next of course, but I also wanted to learn more about the past, to understand the painful and astonishing paths that led these people to find one another. Her book travels far and wide, but in the end it’s about families–not just the ones we’re born into but also the ones we make for ourselves. It’s enthralling and moving and fascinating and absolutely wonderful.”–Claire LaZebnik, best-selling author of If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now and Families and Other Non-Returnable Gifts.

The cover was designed by the talented Howard Wong of Grace Image Photography/SF.

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