Wednesday, April 4, 2012

All Things Asian: Steph Su Reads

Welcome to our All Things Asian event! Visiting today is the lovely blogger Steph from Steph Su Reads.
Hi! I'm Steph. I graduated from Swarthmore College with High Honors in English Literature & Educational Studies with a creative writing emphasis. I currently work as an educational advisor in Shanghai, China. I've been writing since 1997 and reading YA since 2002--neither of which are going to stop anytime soon! Aside from reading and writing, I also swim, play the piano, take pictures, and learn guitar. I'm a big believer in the inspiration of nature and the eternal search for kindred spirits.
What are some of your favorite books?
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensburger, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, Anne of Green Gables (and sequels) by L. M. Montgomery, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.
Young adult fiction often features protagonists' awkward moments. What are some of the most awkward moments of your teenage years?
The prevailing awkward thing I remember from my teenage years is that I felt like I was not myself, and I wasn’t even sure if there was a true “me.” I felt like I was a different person for each group that I was a part of, and it got to the point where I kept myself up late at night, miserable, worried that I was not being genuine because I seemed to change from person to person that I talked to. I still feel that way at times.
What fictional character do you relate the most to and why?
Jessica Darling of the books Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings, and Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty. She was the first character I discovered who so thoroughly captured the spirit, problems, and sense of humor of a girl who is smarter than 99% of her suburban town and dying for more meaning to life.
Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?
To be honest, I don’t think Asians are prominent enough anywhere—especially not in the fields that Western society judges for prominence and influence, such as politics and entertainment (admittedly, those two fields are often interchangeable these days). This may partly be personal preference, sure (that is, Asians themselves don’t feel the urge to go into these fields), but when Asians do try to enter these fields they are often limited to stereotypes: for example, in Hollywood, these would be the kung fu master and dutiful Asian woman roles. This is why I have been happy to see more POC characters in YA fiction, instead of having POC writers pigeonholed into writing only about cultural or immigration issues. However, we still have a ways to go before POC characters are fully accepted as main characters both in the book and on the cover.
What is your favorite Asian dish?
What DON’T I like? Particular favorites are curry, pad thai, and milk tea (the equivalent of coffee for me). No spicy food. Vegetables done the Asian way: stir-fried in oil flavored with ginger and garlic. Perfection.
Would you say you appreciate Asian inspired literature more, less, or the same as other literature?
Most so-called “Asian inspired” literature never seem to do the culture justice. First off, the term “Asian culture” is too broad: there are vast differences between the cultures of China and Japan and Southeast Asia, for instance. I sometimes get frustrated or unsettled when a book takes its inspiration from a jumble of Asian cultures and mashes it together, as if a setting with dragons and kimonos and chopsticks and qis is representative of anything but a “Western” idea of what “Eastern” culture is like. (I took classes on Orientalism in college, sorry.)


What would I like to see? I’d like to see more YA books set in modern-day Asia. Life in an Asian city is so fascinatingly different than life in an American city. I think that the reason there aren’t yet many books set in contemporary Asia is that there aren’t clear “markers” for these books being set in contemporary Asia: you can’t just mention qipao or jade or dragon and have readers go, ah, Asia. Contemporary Asia is so much more complex than that, and I can’t think of any authors who have tackled this setting successfully yet.

That being said, I do adore Zoe Marriott’s book Shadows on the Moon. This grand fantasy tale is meticulously researched to be based on feudal Japan. It’s a fantastic read!
This or that:
Egg rolls or sushi? Sushi!
Ramen or dumplings? Dumplings
K-pop, J-pop, or Mandopop? Mandopop…the rare times I listen to it
Chopsticks or fork? Depends on the food ;)
Thank you so much for sharing, Steph! To learn more about Steph and her blog, visit Steph Su Reads, Facebook, or Twitter.
All Things Asian
To follow the rest of the event, go to our All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!)


And don't forget to check out That Hapa Chick and My Words Ate Me today for more posts!

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