Today we are fortunate to have Kelly Loy Gilbert with us. Her newest book, Picture Us in the Light, was released in April and she’s here to tell us a little bit about it and about her writing life. We also have a giveaway of one copy of her book.
In your newest book, readers will get to know Danny Cheng. Can you tell us a bit about Danny and his hopes and challenges?
Danny is a senior in high school in Cupertino, CA, which is the majority-Asian Silicon Valley city where I grew up. He’s grown up in an intensely high-pressure environment, but he and his parents, who are immigrants from Shiyan, China, are euphoric because he’s been accepted to RISD, the art school of his dreams. Danny and his group of friends are dealing with the fallout of a tragedy that took place in their circle the year before, and though he’s never told anyone, Danny is privately sorting through what to do with how he feels about his best friend, Harry Wong, who he’s been in love with for years, which is complicated by the fact that Harry is dating Regina Chan, who is Danny’s other best friend.
Danny’s parents have always been secretive, but a discovery Danny makes leads him to wonder if maybe they’ve been hiding something life-altering from him (which, spoiler: they have!). The book explores what it means to be family, what it means to be connected to someone and what we owe each other, all the indelible ways that we’re shaped by other people–and what it means to love someone else, what it means to love someone you aren’t supposed to, how to work out what you’re owed by the world. It’s also a (mostly) love letter to the place I grew up and the Asian American community I’m from.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing Picture Us in the Light?
The book deals with immigration, and I was writing it during a particularly tumultuous period of US policy–I remember at some point after the 2016 election waking up and wondering ‘am I writing a dystopian now?’ And I think just harnessing everything I was feeling about the country, about race, about what it means to be a person of color today in America–into my story was something I struggled with on both a craft level and a personal level.
What do you love about writing?
How would you describe yourself and what would your family add if they were sitting next to you?
So–embarrassing confession–I still haven’t read the Harry Potter books (but I watched the movies and am really excited to read the books with my kids when they’re a bit older), but it doesn’t stop me from having extremely confident opinions about the houses, haha. My friends say I’m a HuffleClaw, which feels accurate! I’m an introvert who loves people, very introspective, perpetually anxious, loyal, and low-maintenance. I’m passionate about faith and social justice. My 4 year old would add that I’m good at drawing (I’m not), and my husband would add that I’m obsessed with the weather (I am).
If you could spend a day with a character from any book, who would you choose?
I would love to spend a day with Jo from Stacey Lee’s upcoming THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL. Like all of Stacey’s narrators, she’s warm and witty and brave, and she also lives secretly underneath a printing shop in 1850s Atlanta with her adopted father, and she leverages the secrets she hears through her ‘listening tube’ (a pipe into the house) to secretly write an anonymous advice column dealing with social issues in the community and nation. I adored the book and her life sounds so fascinating–I would love to go back in time and see the world through her eyes.
What can you tell us about your next writing project?
If my last ones are any indication it’ll change drastically (and take years), but right now it’s a teen pregnancy story.
What do you wish I had asked?
No one ever asks me about my *true* passion, which is gummy candies, and I keep hoping for the question: “Kelly, what is the actual best Haribo gummy if you were to rank them all?”
Why, Crystal, thank you for asking! It is in fact the Haribo Supermix, UK version (https://www.google.com/
Thanks so much Kelly! Readers, if you’re interested in getting your hands on Picture Us in the Light, be sure to enter our giveaway below.