When I came to the United States at the age of eight, I spent a lot of time in the library because I needed to learn English, and because none of the neighborhood kids knew yet how awesome I was at Nintendo.
We arrived in Oklahoma in the summertime, and I was terrified that I would show up to school unable to speak with the other kids. We were refugees from Iran who had spent several years bouncing from country to country, so I had a smattering of a few languages. My English, however, was a bit like Apu from the Simpsons.
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My father tells this story about me as a little girl and swears it’s true. I don’t remember it myself, but I choose to believe him. He said that one night, after he read a selection of books to me at bedtime, I asked him, “Daddy, why does everyone have yellow hair in the books?” He struggled a bit on how to answer, and said something about how that was the way the author and artist decided to make them. “Well,” I said, “When I grow up, I’m going to change that!”
Flash forward: after graduating with a degree in Mass Communication from UC Berkeley, and still not knowing what I wanted to be “when I grew up,” I decided to move temporarily to Taiwan (where my parents are from originally) to study Mandarin Chinese and teach English. Really, I was stalling for time while doing something productive. After about a year, I started thinking about what I would do when I returned to the U.S. Some of my friends were thinking about going into consulting (that was big back then!) or graduate school, but neither option appealed to me. Then one of my friends said to me, “Well, you’re always reading books. Have you ever considered book publishing?” There was (is) very little book publishing on the West Coast, and so I hadn’t really seen it as a viable career option. But when he suggested it, something clicked. I had always loved books and reading, so I decided to look into it.