Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: Mike Jung, Author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret I
1) Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?
Mike Jung: Vincent Wu [main character of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities], without a doubt, mostly because he’s the character who’s most informed by my own childhood experiences. Vincent isn’t based on me – he’s very different from the 12 year old Mike Jung in several important ways – but his insecurities about friendship, girls, social standing, and self-worth were (and are) very familiar to me.
2) If you could give your Asian American kid readers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MJ: I don’t know that I can limit it to one piece of advice, but here goes: when I was a kid reader, I devalued my own identity as an Asian American. I lived in an overwhelmingly white community, I wanted very badly to fit in, and looking back now it’s easy to see all the little ways in which I accepted the idea that being Asian American was some kind of stain on my identity that needed to be removed or at least hidden. I hope my book, and all of my future books, will be helpful and positive to you in resisting that kind of impulse, and those pressures. Remember that your identity counts; remember that YOU count. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
3) Who is your favorite Asian American children’s author right now (other than yourself)?
MJ: Lisa Yee is a serious contender for my current favorite children’s author, period, regardless of race or ethnicity. I consider MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS the gold standard for middle-grade fiction, and studying the arc of Lisa’s career has been hugely inspirational to me as I’ve worked to get my own career off the ground. Gene Leun Yang is utterly masterful – AMERICAN BORN CHINESE is a work of genius – and I’m also a big fan of Ellen Oh, Cindy Pon, Kazu Kibuishi, and Debbie Ohi.
Thank you, Mike, for taking the time to answer my questions!
About the Author:
Mike Jung is an active blogger, parent, and SCBWI member, and lives in Oakland, California. Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in 2012, was his first novel.