Thursday, February 05, 2009

Justina's in the House!

I am doing my happy dance about hosting Justina Chen Headley today for her blog tour for her kickass new book, North of Beautiful.

See, I'm even prepared--these are my really big straws, which are for BUBBLE TEA. Except I might just take her to that place in Georgetown for bubble tea and all of yesterday's bubble tea haters can just deal with it already. (I was totally going to photoshop a picture so it would look like Justina and I were drinking bubble tea together, but then I remembered I don't have photoshop on this computer and my paint skills aren't that awesome. Or I could have photoshopped myself into the above photo at Shanghai hotspot M1nt, but I wasn't sure I could handle also doing my reflection in the tank...)

Anyway, frequent readers of my blog know that most of my reading falls into 2 categories: YA fiction, usually girly, and Adult non-fiction, usually about China. And, while North of Beautiful is about many things, it is also a YA Novel that goes to China and talks about how China is changing. Also, Justina just moved back from Shanghai, so how could I not ask her about China? I couldn't.

While in Shanghai, Jacob says that "real Chinese culture" is "anything to do with money...Everything in China is tied to making a buck." Terra thinks this is because in a country with, and escaping, such poverty, how could you not think about money all the time. "Who wouldn't be consumed with money if they lived in such squalor, if they had to worry about their next meal--and whether they would have a home because of the threat of progress." Do you agree with these characters' assessments of modern China?

Let’s just say that when I was living in Shanghai for the last couple of months, it was seen as completely acceptable for everyone and anyone—even taxi drivers—to ask point blank how much money you made, how much your house cost, how much your friends earned.

One of the sad, unwitting victims in China’s mad dash to modernize are its historic neighborhoods, razed without thought to preservation. These old neighborhoods (hutongs in Beijing and lilongs in Shanghai) won’t be around for much longer. Every day in Shanghai, I saw more and more sections being torn down. That’s history—tangible history—disappearing every moment. Some locals explained to me that the Chinese have no qualms demolishing this past since it’s a reminder of a poverty that’s too close in memory for comfort.

What do you wish Americans knew or understood about China today?

China is hungry and working an eight-day work week, literally every second around the clock. There is a viable pulse—at least in Shanghai where I lived for a few months. You could feel it in the city and see it in the number of cranes erected for its non-stop construction. The work ethic in China is extraordinary. You can check out my blog ( for my Shanghai turnstile posts about some of the movers and shakers in the creative industry…and how hard they work.

China’s fervor to lead the world into the twenty-first century should be a wake-up call to America. There’s so much work we as Americans need to do. We need to invest seriously in education, raising our math and science standards, encouraging more kids (including girls!) to enter technology fields. And then we all need to hunker down, sock away money into our savings, and rebuild our America.

What music are you listening to these days? What TV shows/movies are you watching?

I spent the last four months living in Shanghai and so I feel out of touch with music, TV, and movies. So I’ll put out an SOS to your blog readers:

Young adult author in need of a serious influx of new tunes and TV shows. Smitten with hip hop and rap rhythms. Loves voices like Natasha Bedingfield and lyrics like K.T. Tunstall’s. Looking for a compelling, happening TV show with the unique storytelling of Heroes (first season), wittiness and pop cultural references of the Gilmore Girls, and procedurals like Law & Order. Has serious crush on Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series. Email all suggestions to Justina [at] justinachenheadley [dot] com immediately.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your high school self?

Chill! Not everything has to be done right NOW. And not everything has to be done perfectly. (I often have to tell my forty-year-old self this, too.)

But I would also tell my high school self to be more financially savvy. Don’t fall into the “good girl” trap of not talking about money. Independence—being able to do what you want—is tied to having the financial wherewithal to bootstrap your own dreams.

Excellent advice! Now, before we wander around DC to make sure all of your books are prominently displayed in bookstores, Justina's giving away an AUTOGRAPHED copy of North of Beautiful to the 1st person who leaves a comment correctly answering the following question:

What famous librarian has gone geocaching with Justina

Hmmm... maybe we'll go geocaching around DC, so someday when I'm a famous librarian, I can be the answer to this question!

Anyway, if you've missed her earlier this week, check her out at Mitali's Fire Escape, Shelf Elf, Archimedes Forgets, and tomorrow she'll be hanging out over at Teen Book Review.

AND! Be sure to read all of Justina's books! In the words of my dear friend Molly, "ZOMG! I LOVE HER!"


Erika Powell said...

Nancy Pearl? hope thats right. I really want to read Justina's book

Anonymous said...

Jackie Parker, Ms. Interactive Reader?

anilee said...

Ooh...I have a serious crush on Eugenides too..

That's sad how they just destroy those old neighborhoods. Old stuff is just so cool.

Justina Chen said...

THANK YOU for hosting me here today! It's an HONOR to hang out on your blog. I am SO taking you up on our future bubble tea date. Look at your straws! I started laughing when I saw that picture. HAVE AN AWESOME DAY...and get yourself a bubble tea.

Mrs. F-B's Books Blog said...

Dang - I knew it was Nancy Pearl, but how am I supposed to compete with someone who's reading your blog in the middle of the night?!? 1:57 AM???? That's dedication. Thanks for a great interview.

Jennie said...

Erika and Trisha and Mrs. F-B-- I'll announce the right answer and winner later today.

Madison--the destruction of old neighborhoods is a really complex issue. I highly blogged about it here:

And I really recommend Michael Meyer's book The Last Days of Old Beijing which sets up both sides of the issue really well.

Justina-- I'm so glad you came over! Seriously tell me when you're in DC and I will take you out for bubble tea (Because while I have the straws, I don't have any pearls, but I do know where to get some...)

Jackie said...

LOL, thanks Trisha, but I am NOT famous.

This was a seriously fantastic interview, Jennie! Really stellar!

Justina, I'm going to make you a CD, k?

a Tonggu Momma said...

I was too embarrassed to say that I don't know earlier, but I'm dying to learn the name of the place in Georgetown. Where do you get your Bubble Tea? (We are in MD. And my daughter loves it.) Can you e-mail me or comment here?

Jennie said...

Jackie-- I'm glad you liked it!

A Tonggu Mama-- It's called Snap and it's on Thomas Jefferson, just off M street (otherwise known as around the corner from that big Barnes and Noble). It specializes in crepes and bubble tea, which is kinda the best combination EVER. But it's a little hit or miss. I've had awesome bubble tea there, and less-than-stellar bubble tea there as well. If you want really awesome bubble tea, you'll have to go out to the Eden Center in Annandale, which is like the mecca for Vietnamese food.