American Panda was one of my favorite novels of late 2017. Not only is Mei an engaging character with real faults and real quality, but her growth throughout the novel made her a believable, interesting person that I enjoyed reading about. You can read all my thoughts on the novel here.
Gloria Chao’s debut is hitting the shelves in a matter of days as of this posting and to get everyone amped up, I’m working with The Fantastic Flying Book Tours to bring you an interview with the author herself!
Published: 6 February 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Category: Contemporary/Young Adult
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.
Interview With The Author
You and Mei seem to share a lot of traits, among them a certain skill at dancing. What song would you choose for the two of you to dance to in Dance Dance Revolution?
I love this question! Hands down, Mei and I would DDR to Matsuri JAPAN because it’s my favorite combination and because it’s a little ode to Darren. If we’re choosing a non-DDR song to dance to, I’d pick Wang Leehom’s Shi Ba Ban Wu Yi, which I listened to a lot while writing American Panda.
With many emotional moments throughout, what was the most difficult part of American Panda to write?
The most difficult part to write at first was the mother’s side of the story and why she had such high expectations for Mei. Part of the reason this was difficult was because I didn’t know the whys behind my own mother’s actions, but writing this book made me ask her questions. It was difficult facing tough parts of my life head on, but I am so happy I did. The mother-daughter relationship in this book was the hardest to write but also the most rewarding.
While you were studying at MIT, did you ever think you’d become a writer or did that come later?
I never considered being a writer until after dental school. I wish I had found my passion earlier so I could have taken advantage of creative writing classes in college, but I try to tell myself that my windy path made me into the writer I am today (but that could be the cognitive dissonance speaking).
Mei faces a lot of pressure in this book. Did you face similar pressures growing up? How did they factor into your school and career choices?
I faced similar pressures, though my experiences have been fictionalized, meaning I altered certain parts to fit the book and characters. I was raised to be very left-brained, with math and science being the focus. My parents never explicitly said I had to be a doctor, but it’s no coincidence that my oldest brother is a doctor and I went to dental school.
Is there one character in the book that you loved writing more than any other?
I love this question too! Mei’s mother is my favorite character to write. She’s so full of life and bossy that she practically writes herself!
Are there any books you might recommend to people who loved American Panda?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes.
Thank you so much, Gloria, for answering my questions and for writing Mei’s story for the world at large to enjoy. 🙂
Here’s hoping many more people will come to enjoy the culture, the intensity, and the interesting storytelling that is encompassed in this book. Also be sure to check out the giveaway below for (1) copy of American Panda (US only).