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Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Fonda Lee, Author of Zeroboxer


Our next author is Fonda Lee, author of the upcoming book, Zeroboxer. I am so intrigued by that title! (Adding it to my to-read list right now.)

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

Zeroboxer final cover copy

Fonda Lee: My novel, ZEROBOXER, takes place in a future in which Mars has been settled with the aid of genetic engineering, and tensions between Earth and its more prosperous colony are running high. My main character is a young prizefighter named Carr, who competes in the futuristic zero-gravity combat sport of zeroboxing, and ends up becoming a celebrity figure in the interplanetary conflict.

Carr’s strategist and love interest is a woman named Risha. Of all the characters I’ve written, I identify most strongly with Risha because she reminds me of myself when I was younger. Risha is half-Martian; she was born on Mars but raised on Earth, so while she considers herself Terran, she is also always aware of how she stands out as being Martian—not unlike the experience a lot of Asian Americans and other minorities go through. Risha is an ambitious workaholic with a keen head for business strategy, who masks her inner insecurities behind a cloak of over-preparedness—which is only a minor exaggeration of what I was like when I was working 60 to 80 hours a week as a twenty-two-year old management consultant. She also likes food and combat sports.

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

FL: I was a voracious reader. Fantasy and science fiction have been my narrative drugs of choice for a long time. I loved Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy, Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, to name just a few.

My brain has always wanted to work and live in narrative. It loves nothing more than to follow a story, whether it be through books, film, comics, or television. There is something infinitely appealing about organizing our collective experiences, thoughts, fears, and hopes in the form of stories. We’ve been doing it since we were cavemen. I’m grateful that my parents encouraged my love of reading at a young age. I spent countless hours in libraries and bookstores.

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

FL: Read a lot, and read both broadly and deeply. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read different genres. This is especially important if you want to be a writer. Scan widely for what you like and when you gravitate toward something, dive deep to really understand it. I shake my head when I hear people say things like, “oh, I don’t read fiction” or “I don’t read YA” or “I don’t read comics.” There is something worthwhile, enlightening, or enjoyable about almost everything that is well done, and if you can appreciate it, it will open your mind to being a better reader and a better writer.

Asian American kids, in particular, I feel, are sometimes steered by well-meaning parents and peers toward the hard, technical fields. There’s a stereotype, often well reinforced, of the Asian quant jock who plays violin and goes on to medical school to become a brain surgeon. Every society has its naturally left-brained scientists, engineers, and doctors, as well as its writers, athletes, and fashion designers. There is, I think, a particular importance that practical-minded Asian American families sometimes place on the former at the expense of the latter. Take it from me: I did the practical finance degree and business career. I don’t regret it, but I wish I’d accepted earlier what my true calling was, even if making a living at it was still a ways away. Be true to yourself.

Thank you, Fonda!


About the author:

Fonda Lee is an author and recovering corporate strategist who was born and raised in Calgary, Canada (land of hockey, rodeo, and oil reserves) and now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon (land of rain, hipsters, and Powell’s Books). When she is not writing she can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Her debut upper YA science fiction novel, ZEROBOXER, will be published by Flux in April 2015. You can find Fonda at and on Twitter @fondajlee.

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