January 17, 2011

Interview with Dori Jones Yang (Daughter of Xanadu)

What made you write about Mongol Empire?
Dori:  I’m enchanted by ‘long ago and far away.’ I wanted to write about Marco Polo, and I discovered that, in his day, China was part of the Mongol Empire. I love learning about exotic lands and cultures and finding out about people and places I know nothing about. Most of us think of the Mongols as ‘barbarians,’ yet Marco Polo admired them. I wondered why.

What fascinates you the most about this part of History?

Dori:  The 13th century was the moment in history when East met West. Under the Mongols, for the first time, West Europeans could travel safely all the way to the Far East and back. Because I spent eight years in China, I knew how different Chinese people and customs looked to my eyes. What might it have been like, the first time Chinese people saw a European?

Reading Daughter of Xanadu I saw that much of the lessons and messages from the book still apply today. Do you think the world has learned from history?
Dori:  In my lifetime so far, I’ve seen that we don’t learn enough from history. Our main problem is the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. We need to reach out and realize that foreigners may look and speak differently, but they have hopes and dreams and relationships, just as we do.

What would you tell readers (like myself) who are skeptical of ancient history to encourage them to read Daughter of Xanadu?
Dori:  I love reading books by authors who create whole worlds to explore, including the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. That’s what great historical fiction can be: like fantasy. It’s fascinating to think how someone like you might have dealt with familiar dilemmas: family expectations vs. personal ambitions vs. desires of the heart.

Daughter of Xanadu
Do you think Marco Polo and Khubilai Khan were in reality, similar to how they are portrayed in the book?
Dori:  It’s hard to know for sure. All we know about Marco Polo is from what he wrote in his own book, and he tells surprisingly little of his personal story. What we do know is that he pleased the Khan with his ability to tell stories, so I assume he was witty, charming, and entertaining. Khubilai Khan was known as Khubilai The Wise because, although he waged war, he listened to smart advisers and focused on ruling wisely. As I showed in the novel, his wife Chabi urged him to show mercy.

Why did you decide to write this story for Young Adults?
Dori:  Young adulthood is a time of life when we make important decisions, about love, life, ambition, action – and how we will be different from what our parents envisioned. Young adults are more open to other countries and cultures, because today our societies are more multicultural and our connections more global. The category of Young Adult books is expanding rapidly, open to fresh ideas and approaches. This is the cutting-edge category for books today!

Thank you so much for the interview, Dori! And for writing this wonderful book! 

1 comment:

  1. I like to think I really enjoy Historical Fiction, but I tend not to read enough of it. I am glad to see you are doing this challenge! I like how Dori recognizes that we don't learn enough from history, I find this to be a sad truth that I wish was not the case.
    Anyway, great interview! You have won an award on my blog. Check out the details here- http://www.abookdork.com/2011/01/stylish-blogger-award.html


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