“You can either let this journey crush you, or let it transform you into someone stronger.”
A scene from the newly-released, New-York-Times-bestselling (?!) book Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor, art by 最后的L and water effects by me! 🤗
Honestly, Zachary Ying is a book I didn’t think I’d have the strength to write. The concept is very wild and wacky, yes—the First Emperor of China possessing a young Chinese American boy’s AR gaming headset and compelling him on a journey across China to heist magical artifacts—but writing the story required me to dig deep into my complicated relationship with my heritage.
When I immigrated to Canada in 6th grade, I spent a year as the only Asian kid in the school of a small town. In that one year, I became self-conscious of all sorts of things that didn’t seem to matter before: the way I looked, the way I spoke, the clothes I wore, the media I liked. The white kids wouldn’t insult me outright, but they’d ask me questions that made me embarrassed of my differences from them. I felt backward, alien. The feelings of isolation and rejection I experienced took me many, many years to unpack. It’s been a long journey, learning to love myself again, and I drew much strength from stories in Chinese history to do so.
However, as the years passed, I’ve also watched in horror as the government of China became increasingly authoritarian, cracking down on dissent and committing genocidal atrocities against minority ethnic groups, of which I belong to one myself. Being Chinese has become so painfully political. Pride in Chinese culture is no longer as simple as that, but could accidentally play into the Chinese government’s use of traditional culture as propaganda. Yet on another hand, there’s the necessity of demystifying and defending Chinese culture to combat anti-Chinese racism. Many diaspora like myself are caught in the crosshairs, struggling to find the balance. But what I firmly believe is that traditional Chinese culture and history don't belong to the Chinese government. It belongs to the Chinese people, both native and diaspora. If we distance ourselves from our heritage specifically because of the Chinese government, that’s letting them win, validating their claim to be the one true representative of Chinese culture when that is absolutely not the case.
Through Zack’s journey in this book, I wanted to engage with the complexities of Chinese identity, but I also want to have fun. This book remains a love letter to my 12-year-old self, taking inspiration from everything I love—anime, video games, sci-fi, and of course, Chinese history and myths. You’ll find appearances by real figures from said history and myths, wielding magic inspired by their legends, along with many famous Chinese artifacts.
If any of that sounds fun to you too, especially if you like Percy Jackson or Yugioh, I really think you’d like this book as well 😩✌🏼 You can find out where to get it at ZacharyYing.com!
"Yorulmam deme gönül mutlaka yorulursun.
Ortada seyrederken kenara savrulursun.
Zamanın tenceresi, penceresi çok farklı,
Temmuz’da buz tutarsın, Ocak’ta kavrulursun."
ت @kalbi-duam ت ⏰11:45 #kalbiduam
“𝑇ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑠𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑒 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑤, 𝑏𝑟𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑒𝑛𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑖𝑡 𝑙𝑖𝑡 𝑢𝑝 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑛 𝐴𝑧𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑙’𝑠 𝑠ℎ𝑎𝑑𝑜𝑤𝑠 𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑜𝑜𝑚”
Art by @/lucielart on IG. 🌸✨
Commissioned by @soyzaweels @acourtofelriel @/valbookstan and me.
Characters belong to @sjmaas
Pʟ��ᴀsᴇ,ᴅᴏ 𝗡𝗢𝗧 ʀᴇᴘᴏsᴛ. Lɪᴋᴇs ᴀɴᴅ sʜᴀʀᴇs ᴀʀᴇ ᴀʟʟᴏᴡᴇᴅ.
I love when you start reading a book and you're not even 5 pages in and you already just know it's going to be an amazing book