Friday, April 21, 2006

Nothing but the truth, I swear.


I've been meaning to write about more of the books I've edited that are coming out, but time keeps slipping away from me. But finally I found some time to write about another book I edited that came out at the beginning of this month. It's called NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (AND A FEW WHITE LIES) by Justina Chen Headley. This novel features a hapa (half Asian, half white) narrator, Patty Ho, who has just been to a fortuneteller (who tells fortunes via people's bellybuttons) who predicts that Patty will end up with a "white guy." This is baaaaad news to Patty's ultra-strict Taiwanese mother, who likes to ignore the white part of Patty's heritage due to her out-of-the-picture white father. She sends Patty off to math camp at Stanford in the hopes that she meets a nice Taiwanese boy, and there Patty finds her first love (not quite Taiwanese), learns to be comfortable in her own skin, and uncovers some family secrets.

This book is special for many, many reasons--the wonderful voice, the biracial narrator, the fact that it's both humorous and poignant, and on and on. It's also significant in my career because it was the first auction book that I've been in involved in--four publishers were battling for this novel, and I was thrilled that Little, Brown came out on top! It was also exciting because this is a book that could have been seen as another quiet multicultural book, but I was thrilled to be able to drum up so much excitement for it in-house.

I thought I'd share with you some of the letter I wrote to her agent when we sent in our offer two years ago:
Okay, perhaps I'm being a bit hokey, but I couldn't resist writing in the spirit of the book!

Truth: Little, Brown would love to publish Nothing But the Truth and a Few White Lies by Justina Chen Headley. Justina is obviously a talented author; she has such a fresh, wonderful voice, and the novel has a great balance of humor and poignancy. We were all extremely enthusiastic about this book and of Justina as a writer, and we truly hope to be able to publish this book and future ones on our list.

Truth: You sent this novel to me for a reason, and your instincts were correct. I feel very strongly connected to this novel, not only because, like Patty Ho, I am of Taiwanese descent, but because I, too, have struggled with identity issues growing up. I lived in various places where I was the only Asian person in my school (Upstate NY and a small town near Pittsburg, PA), and I distinctly remember wishing I were white, that I wasn't different. I didn't feel right in my own skin until I moved to Southern California with my family, so I understand Patty's adjustments to being at math camp when she is finally surrounded by other Asians. Because I identify so closely to Patty, I feel I am the perfect editor to help Justina shape the novel and bring it to the next level. I would love to work with her on this wonderful character, and I would love to introduce these important issues to the YA reader in a funny and entertaining way.
It's been an interesting experience for me, because this is the first book I've edited where we actually have a full marketing and publicity plan in place and are spending a significant amount of money to promote it. It will be interesting to see how it does. I love the book, and my fingers are crossed that it will do quite well. And so far so's already received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, is a Booksense Pick, and is also a Border's Original Voices nominee!

The author and I have become great friends, and she's proved to be a dream to work with. Incidentally, she and I spoke on a panel, along with Grace Lin, on "Taiwanese American Women in Literature" last weekend in Houston for the North American Taiwanese Women's Association (NATWA) conference. I'll try to write about this more another time. Anyway, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) is intended for ages 12 and up, and adults will get a lot out of the book as well. Justina is sponsoring $5,000 college scholarship through an essay contest, so check Her website is  It's truly a great read, so go on, get out there and buy it! Like, right now!

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