Monday, January 10, 2011

Blog Tour: Interview with Dori Jones Yang (and a giveaway!)

Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu, is here on the blog today in anticipation of her book's release! She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!

What made you fall in love with Chinese culture?

You may not believe this, but it started with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In middle school, I was enchanted by this book and even learned to write in the Elvish script. I longed to go far away and learn new languages. After college, I got an amazing opportunity: to live in Singapore and study Mandarin Chinese. It took forever to learn Chinese, but once I did, I was hooked. I read everything I could about China and visited it in 1979, soon after China opened to Americans. Since then, I’ve been back more times than I can count and become enamored of Chinese geography, history, and culture. I even fell in love with a Chinese man! So I know something about cross-cultural romance.

Did you ever have a mishap based on the difference between Chinese culture and American culture?

When my daughter was two years old, someone sent her some darling barrettes with white bows, which looked sweet in her dark brown hair. As soon as my Chinese husband saw them, he was appalled! He made me take them out immediately. He told me that Chinese children wear white bows in their hair only if one parent has recently died.

What do you think makes Chinese culture stand out from others?

The Chinese written language is as different from English as any language could be. Each character has many pronunciations, different in each region of China, but has strong cultural connotations that all Chinese seem to understand. The turbulent history of China over the past 100 years also strongly affects how Chinese people value stability and harmony versus freedom and human rights.

Who was your favorite or most interesting historical figure to research during the writing of Daughter of Xanadu?

My favorite historical figure was Ai-Jaruk, daughter of Khaidu Khan. Marco Polo told her story in his book: how she was so good at wrestling that she defeated every suitor who came to ask her hand in marriage. As a result, she won the right to go to war with her father and live life on her own terms. This story – not that of Mulan! – inspired me to create the character of Emmajin.

Ways to connect with Dori:

Win a copy of
Daughter of Xanadu!!

Thanks to Dori Jones Yang and Delacorte Books for Young Readers, I have a copy of this book to give away! 

Contest open to US only. Ends January 24th!


  1. Here from the Comment Exchange Program! I like your blog, I'm a new follower :)
    This is a really interesting interview! What a crazy misunderstanding with the bows, haha. I'll definitely have to look for Daughter of Xanadu when it comes out!


  2. Great interview! I fell in love with the Chinese culture after living in Taiwan for a few months.

  3. I really enjoy chinese fiction. It's interesting to get a completely different perspective.

  4. I'm really happy that someone wrote a book about somewhere in Asia, but I do wish a little bit that the author was actually Asian.

    That being said, living in Singapore! I lived there for awhile; I hope you got to visit all sorts of other places while you were there ^.^

    Sniffly Kitty
    Sniffly Kitty's Mostly Books
    Loving the Reviews Challenge

  5. I like the idea of this book. Great interview.

  6. I don't know a lot about Chinese culture but what I have read is very interesting.

  7. In the interview, Dori Jones Yang talked about the cultural difference concerning the color white. White symbolizes death. It is not a good idea to give someone white flowers either. When I ws working, a group of us went out to a new restaurant that had an abundant display of white flowers that just smelled wonderful. I told my husband about it and we never went to that restaurant because of the white flowers.

    I was interested in how she got interested in Chinese culture. I never read Tolkien but I had a grandmother who was an artist. She talked to me about Chinese and Japanese gardens and art when I was very young. I was so impressed by her talks that I did try to dig a hole to China in the backyard sandbox! I took Mandarin classes after college and enjoyed learning the characters. Did you know that there is a certain order to the strokes in the characters?
    They do not look right if you put the strokes in out of order.

    I took a three week tour of China and loved the scenery, the people, the customs so much that I cried on the plane back. Would love to go back and see more. I also ended up marrying a Chinese man so I feel I have lots in common with Dori Jones Yang!


  8. In your interview,you talked about how she aspired to be a warrior like the men to stand out and be the strongest. Mu Lan and this book carry on some of the Chinese Legend and Song of a similar woman. I like that you pointed out that she was ahead of her time. That fits very good. I have watched a feature of Chinese TV about a time when some of the best authors were woman. Somehow that got squashed later on but it good to remember that women in Asia were well known, respected and admired in that era.


  9. Great interview! It's amazing sometimes the difference in cultures, as the hair bow experience showed.

  10. In Canada so cannot enter, but can say...

    Congratulations on the book release!! _Love_ (love!) the cover. And wow on the white in hair.

  11. I loved this book, and my interview posted Tuesday! This was such a great book, and you asked some great questions!

    And, also, I kind of love that Mulan wasn't the inspiration for Emmajin. :)

  12. I totally want to read this! I've always been fascinated by Marco Polo! :) Thanks for the giveaway!

  13. Great interview!In Canada so cannot enter,but what I have read is very interesting.

  14. Dori is grand, I had her on the blog for a guest post.