Jade Chang vs. The World


Courtesy of Emma McIntyre

On May 5, Jade Chang, rising author of the novel The Wangs vs. the World, visited Baldwin Park High School for a presentation speaking on her soon-to-be published book. Students of AP English 11, AP English 12, and  Mandarin Language had the opportunity to hear Ms. Chang read a portion of her novel followed by a Q&A concerning any aspect of the author or her work.

The Wangs“Jade Chang generously volunteered to come and speak to you guys,” stated Mrs. Lee, an English teacher at a Baldwin Park High School, after sharing that the guest speaker was found through Pen Center USA West, a nonprofit membership organization made up of writers who work west of the Mississippi.

Chang’s novel follows the fractured family of Charles Wang, a wealthy immigrant businessman who lost it all, on a roadtrip across America. Many students seemed to enjoy the speaker’s presentation as she read aloud an excerpt from her novel, which revolved around the aftermath of a dramatic car crash and an exploration of the mind of one of the novel’s main characters, Grace. As she read aloud, it became increasingly clear that her novel was intended to be a wonderful, refreshing perspective on the life of an immigrant family, not “trying to gain acceptance,” but rather a family hoping to live out their own dreams and aspirations.

At least one student from every class that attended shared their questions ranging from, “Can you relate to any of the characters in the novel?” to, “What keeps a writer motivated when writing a novel for so many years?” All of which were answered extensively by Chang, who eventually shared her philosophy on becoming a good writer.

“Everything is interesting,” stated Chang. “Be very curious. Ask, ‘Why? What’s the backstory? What is this person really thinking and feeling?’” A good book, according to Chang, will answer these questions, creating an emotional connection by showing “people who are figuring out how to be human—how to live in the world…how to love each other.”Jade speaks

Chang expressed her motivations for the book throughout the Q&A session, claiming that her novel was meant to express rebellious and enraged sentiments in a joyous manner. Her style of writing, while some may see it as audacious, seemed to most evidently connect with the adolescent audience to whom she presented. She left this audience full of potential writers with one last valuable piece of advice, a motto that allowed her to soar beyond her initial self-imposed restraints: kill your parents.

Not literally of course, but figuratively. Let the “parents” be anyone who holds an emotional influence over you, anyone who might have a fixed image of you that you would never want to challenge, and act as if they do not exist. Write the story that needs to be told without concern for the judgement of others.

“I think the last thing a writer wants is to be constrained by notions of political correctness,” commented Mrs. Lee. She commends Jade Chang for playing to her fans, not to her critics, and encourages students to pursue their own ideas as well. “You guys are too young to squash your youthful idealism by self-censoring.”

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