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Interview with 'Paper Son' kidlit author Virginia Loh

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Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan is a multi-published author, professor, researcher, former K-8 schoolteacher, and public servant. She also throws a mean party.

For what age audience do you write?

I write for all ages and audiences and in all genres. However, I am published in the picture book and middle-grade novel genres. I mainly write about the Asian-American experience. In addition, I have academic publications about children’s and young adult literature.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, co-authored by Helen Foster James, is entitled 'Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America'. It was released in May 2013 by Sleeping Bear Press. It is about a Chinese immigrant named Lee who becomes a paper son in order to come to the United States; he has to endure a long detention and intense interrogations at the Angel Island Immigration Center. As part of my work at the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, I am developing a unit using this text; this unit will be aligned to CCSS and will be available for purchase.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope readers will learn about the Asian-American immigration experience. Not many people know about Angel Island or the paper son system. Yet, the Angel Island Immigration Center, which is also referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West,” processed at least 175,000 Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. Many Chinese-Americans today are descendants of those processed at Angel Island.

The history of the Angel Island Immigration enter is also significant in regard to racial politics and social justice, as the Chinese were highly discriminated against during their detainment at Angel Island. For example, the Chinese were subject to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was the only law in American history to deny citizenship based on ethnicity. They overcame complex adversities and trials to become American citizens. Yet, their experience is not part of the mainstream curriculum. It is my goal to include the history and contributions of marginalized groups, such as Chinese-Americans, as part of the mainstream American narrative.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Revising and Rewriting. “Real” writers know that the first draft is not the final draft. Before I submit anything to my editor, my manuscript has already undergone 100 rewrites and critiques. Then, my editor provides 100 more requests. Writing is more about revising and rewriting than anything else. That first draft is easy.

Henry: So true. Writing should really be called Rewriting.

Click to read the complete interview at Henry Herz's blog on fantasy and science fiction books for kids.

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