loved them, from going to Hebrew school, to my parent’s
tradition of letting us eat ice cream for dinner on April Fool’s day, to the
way we lined our shoes up in straight, neat rows before going inside my Nai Nai
and Ye Ye’s apartment.
love of traditions has lasted into my adult life, and I often wonder if my
family and our traditions are the reason
that I write. My mother’s family is
Jewish, and came over from Russia several generations ago. My father’s family is Chinese and Christian,
and my Ye Ye was an evangelical Christian minister. I’ve inherited a rich family history that
teems with stories, from my grandparents’ accounts of their close escape from
Communist China with my father as an infant, to the stories my mother’s mother
tells of Passover Seders all in Hebrew and Yiddish, with linen napkins so big
they spilled from your lap to the floor.
We’re also a family that continually generates new narratives, because
when you ask your evangelical minister grandfather to please come up to say an
Aaliyah at your Bat Mitzvah, that simple act is, in itself, a pretty excellent
Writing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL series is like running
a fantasy corporation. Six years into writing, five books later, I wake up
every day and juggle over 150 characters, 40 plot lines, and a world so big it
feels like it’s outgrowing my own head. But it’s what I was born to do – write
big worlds and sophisticated stories that can keep up with a clever child’s
But there was something else I was born to do, only I never
thought I’d find an outlet to do it: tell my own story.
And my most personal story is about my grandmother, who
without sounding too crass, was a person far more significant in my life than
my own parents. We shared the same birthday. We both liked gourmet food and
fancy hotels, even if we couldn’t afford them. We both were highly suspicious
of my grandfather. And most of all, we were deeply, deeply unhappy.
But Nani didn’t want me to be. And something about my own
unhappiness made her intolerant of her own.