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November 15, 2012

Lauren Bjorkman Discusses Multiculturalism In Her Most Recent Book, MISS FORTUNE COOKIE.

Posted by tbrliz


MISS FORTUNE COOKIE
follows the story of a girl with an advice blog under the alias "Miss Fortune Cookie." Erin's life goes crazy when her ex-best friend acts on advice from the blog. Lauren Bjorkman explains her subconscious reasons for including a multi-cultural aspect to her story, shares all the incredible places she has lived and why she enjoys being an outsider.

When I started MISS FORTUNE COOKIE, I did not set out to write a “multi-cultural” story. That happened by accident. The story began with an idea: If you give bad advice, are you responsible if someone takes it?

After that my main character came to me, a teen advice blogger named Erin. Erin is smart, charming, and responsible --- the kind of girl that would be upset if her advice hurt someone. Her nature is a little too sensitive. She doesn’t like to stand up to her friends or take risks in her own life. She keeps her blog a secret to avoid conflict.

When I got to the setting, I picked Lowell, an academic public high school in San Francisco. My cousin went there, so I knew something about it. Plus, the pressure that teens deal with at Lowell intrigued me. I decided that Erin would be white and her two best friends Chinese-American without any grand designs. It just made sense given that the population at Lowell is mainly Asian-American.

After writing the first draft of MISS FORTUNE COOKIE, though, I understood my subconscious reason for creating my characters the way I did. Their diversity allowed me to explore one of the things that Erin and I have in common. We don’t belong.

I live in a community --- Taos, New Mexico --- where Hispanics and Pueblo Indians make up the majority. The Hispanic people here came from Spain 500 years ago. The Pueblo Indians migrated here a thousand years ago. A person can live in Taos for twenty years and still be an outsider.

Before New Mexico, I lived in Hawaii, another place where whites comprise a minority. During a big chunk of my childhood, my home was an old wooden sailboat. While in 5th and 6th grade, my dad, my sister, and I lived overseas in the Azores Islands (Portugal), the Canary Islands (Spain), Brazil, and Argentina. Many of my new friends didn’t speak English.

After the sailing voyage when we returned to California --- ostensibly my real home --- I still didn’t belong. I was the odd girl who could use a dinghy, but failed at dressing well or managing my hair. Tell me again, where did you go to the bathroom? It makes sense that I chose to write about a girl that thinks her life would be much better if only she could be of Asian descent like her friends. My teenage self can relate to that. In my adult life, though, I enjoy being on the outside. It suits someone like me who adores people watching. Life is never boring.

I wrote diverse characters, not because I hoped to educate or to make a quota. The novel follows a girl who finds her mojo. The diversity is there because I hoped to reflect real teen experiences. I combined my interest in China and Chinese-American culture with the story of a girl who doesn’t belong, and stirred in some funny adventures for laughs. Grab a pair of chopsticks and eat up!