Created August 04, 2023 by Tanja Bauerle
Sara Fujimura (Foo-gee-moo-rah) is the American half of her bicultural Japanese-American family and spends about a month each summer in Japan with her now-adult children. She started as a journalist, so it is no surprise that Sara’s young adult books contain a lot of facts to go along with the fiction. Whether you want to know about Japan (TANABATA WISH), the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 (BREATHE), what it’s like to be an Olympic-caliber skater (EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T), or how unscripted television works (FAKING REALITY), Sara takes readers on swoony journeys to unusual places. She is a creative writing teacher and literacy advocate who is excited to support the next generation of authors. She is an active member of SCBWI-Arizona and is on both the Planning Committee and the E&I Team.
Sara is represented by Ann Rose of the Prospect Agency.
EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020.
What is the most important message you want to share with your books?
That mixed Asian kids don’t have to check one box or another. My kids (now 21 and 23) say they often felt like they “looked weird everywhere” as kids. Part of that is because American society tells them that they are Asian and Japanese society insists that they are white. Mixed Asian teens are still hard to find on the bookshelf, especially boys, but it has gotten a little bit better. All three of my contemporary YA books have Mixed Asian teens as the MC and/or LI.
What advice can you give to other writers/illustrators writing outside of their lane?
Make sure you know your WHY before you start. If you are creating marginalized characters because you believe “that’s the only thing selling right now,” please don’t. Even within marginalized communities, there isn’t always agreement about certain issues. Educate yourself as much as you can, but know that the conversation is constantly evolving. If you don’t have people in your inner circle who look like the people you are writing about, then maybe this story isn’t for you. That’s some tough love, but it’s true.
What do you consider to be the best way underrepresented creators can connect and support each other?
Something practical you can do is to cultivate lists of comp books for your specific lens. For example, I keep an ongoing list on my website of YA books that feature a biracial Asian main character and/or love interest. My books have a very specific lens [Japanese and white] because I write what I know. That’s not everybody’s experience as a mixed Asian teen though. My ongoing list gives readers a resource to help them find themselves on the bookshelf.
Another simple thing you can do is to talk/post about books on social media and tag the author. Try NOT calling a book by what makes it The Other, but instead by a broader category. For example: If you love rich, historical fantasy with mythical creatures, you should try Cindy Pon’s Medusa-esq YA fantasy SERPENTINE.
What would you like to see more of in kid lit in 2022?
I want to see more nuanced, intersectional stories. Issue books are important and will always have a place on the bookshelf, but I think we owe it to kids to show them more versions of who they are and what they can be. I love reading (and creating!) stories with universal themes but with a specific lens.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading THE JASMINE PROJECT by Meredith Ireland. I have been looking for YA stories featuring transracial/transnational adopted main characters to help me with my current WIP. Like the MC, Ireland was adopted from Korea into an American family. Ireland received bonus points from me because Jasmine’s adopted family is a mixed Asian family (white mom/Filipino dad), and her younger brother is also adopted (Dominican Republic). Despite their melting pot family, the story is NOT about Jasmine coming to terms with her adoption. The adoption is acknowledged and is a lens on her life, but that’s not the main plot. It’s a great example of a nuanced, intersectional story.