Wendy Wan-Long Shang is a middle-grade author who focuses on the many experiences of Chinese-Americans. Her books include The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and The Way Home Looks Now, stories with humor, heart, and a sense of history.
In this interview, Wendy talks about being the first Chinese-American kid in her school, the freedom she had as a young child in choosing books to read, why she likes to write about 10-12 year olds ("kids on the cusp"), life-changing books for reluctant readers (including kids with dyslexia), co-writing This Is Just a Test with Madelyn Rosenberg, why we need diverse books, and much more.
Wendy has always loved reading. She says, “As a child, books meant freedom. If you could read in my kindergarten class, you were allowed to go to the library by yourself, and libraries were the loveliest freedom I could imagine. If I had a book, I had a companion for a long dinner with grown-ups. I could learn about anything, go anywhere, pretend to be anyone.”
Growing up as an American-Chinese in Northern Virginia, Wendy Shang struggled to find characters in the books she read who looked like her. So she decided to become an author and create them herself.
Wendy’s debut novel, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, portrays the struggles of a tween balanced between two cultures. The book follows Lucy’s path from stubborn resistance to pride in her Chinese heritage. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu received several awards, including the Asian-Pacific American Librarians Association’s Children’s Literature Award for 2012. Her second novel, The Way Home Looks Now, explores the struggle of Peter Lee and his family to recover from loss through baseball and the understanding that expressions of grief and love come in many forms.
Wendy co-wrote This is Just a Test with her friend, Madelyn Rosenberg; the book examines Chinese/Jewish identity, Cold War fears, and friendship in the 1980s.
Before starting her career as a children's book author, Wendy was a juvenile justice attorney. She has also worked on behalf of children as a library volunteer and as a tutor at an elementary school. Wendy lives in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC, with her husband, three children, a cat and a dog.