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Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: David Yoo, Author of The Detention Club

David Yoo

This week’s Asian American children’s author is David Yoo. His most recent book for kids is the middle grade novel, The Detention Club.

1) Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

David Yoo: A lot of my fiction has an autobiographical base, at least emotionally. By that I mean while most of the things that happen to my characters didn’t happen to me in “real life,” I always write about things that I fully relate to/identify with, emotionally. So Nick Park in GIRLS FOR BREAKFAST and Albert Kim in STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE are basically me, in different settings. Even Peter Lee in my middle grade novel THE DETENTION CLUB is loosely based on things I was feeling growing up. My most recent book, THE CHOKE ARTIST, was a collection of personal essays for adults, so of course I relate especially so to it because it actually was about me.

2) If you could give your Asian American kid readers one piece of advice, what would it be?

DY: Hard to say–whenever an adult figure told the teen me not to sweat the small stuff, I’d always scoff/roll my eyes at them (behind their backs). That they considered the issues in my life small stuff I interpreted as proof that they were utterly clueless about what it’s like to be a teen. I’m old enough at this point to know that they were right, but I still remember how pointless it was to tell a teenager to trust that things get better–no offense to the whole “It gets better” movement! Frankly, a kid doesn’t have the patience to feel happy knowing that, decades from now, things will turn around. That there will come a time when you look back on this sad or lonely or depressing moment and find humor in it, even. The only reason you appreciate things when you’re older is because you have more perspective on life, which you simply don’t have when you’re younger. So I hesitate to tell AA kid readers, hey, it’ll be all right, even though it’s true. That’s like telling a kid in September, hey, Christmas will be here before you know it. So basically I’m offering the very same pitiful advice I ignored when I was a kid, that today as an adult, looking back on my sometimes miserable childhood, I now appreciate the bad parts almost more than I do the good times, because it’s all part of the journey blah blah blah.

3) Who is your favorite Asian American children’s author right now (other than yourself)?

DY: Gene Luen Yang, seven days a week, twice on Sundays. A genius.

4) Were you a reader growing up? Why or why not?

I loved to read, but depending on who you compare me to I was either a voracious reader or merely an adequate one. Either way, my focus on books went in spurts. The more I got into sports and obsessing over things that I could care less about now (although I do still play my original NES on a weekly basis…sigh), I read less. I also loved movies growing up–not so much TV shows, but movies, and truth be told I watched far more movies than I read books growing up. But I had phases where I devoured books–a horror phase, a fantasy phase, etc. Favorite books growing up: DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, by Roald Dahl (for that matter, everything else by Dahl, as well). THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T, by Judy Blume. The Chronicles of Prydain series. Every book by Paul Zindel, and I probably read and re-read WATERSHIP DOWN more often than I should have.

About the Author:

David Yoo is the author of the YA novels Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before (Hyperion), a Chicago Best of the Best selection, and Girls For Breakfast (Delacorte), an NYPL Books For the Teen Age selection and a Reading Rants Top Ten Books for Teens choice, along with a middle grade novel, The Detention Club (Balzer + Bray), published in 2011.

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