Prophecy of Diversity: Author Ellen Oh

Author Ellen Oh. Courtesy of Ellen Oh.

“There’s something pretty huge that happens to Kira in King that I hope fans will forgive me for. I think it is something that has to happen, but I also think my readers are going to be in for a big shock.”

Ellen Oh is a social media activist, the founder of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender. She is also the young adult author of the Dragon King Chronicles, a high fantasy series that follows a young demon slayer named Kira.

Prophecy starts with Kira, who also happens to be the only woman in the king’s army and the prince’s personal bodyguard, fleeing from Hansong with the prince after the king is murdered. The prince may be the key to the cryptic Dragon King prophecy – or he could just be a man, and the true myth could be in long gone treasure.

“I love Kira. She’s a girl who has yellow eyes and the ability to see and smell demons because of her tiger spirit. But having this ability is not seen as a positive in her world. If anything, she’s ostracized by the very people she risks her life to protect. It’s hard on her but she isn’t as bitter and angry as she could be and that is because she comes from a loving family who always taught her to believe in herself, as much as they believed in her. I think of Kira as that friend you would want to have when you are in trouble. Loyal, caring, and a kick ass fighter,” said Oh.

Though Oh’s Kira does not quite fit the mold of the archetypal strong female character – the pretty, skinny white girl who saves the world with the help of a boy – Oh has no problems with the ladies in young adult literature. Though she would love to see a wider variety of stories so that people of different races, ethnicities, sexualities and gender identities can relate, the most important first step to a great hero is still a great story.

“I just want them to be part of a great story and I would prefer for them not to have to rely on a boy to help solve their own problems. Although, I want to clarify that – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for help or relying on friends to help. What I don’t want to see is a girl looking to another person for the answer. To be a true hero, they need to find the answer that is right for them within themselves,” said Oh.

The world of Hansong, inspired by Oh’s Asian heritage, plays a step in creating that wider variety of heroes and worlds. Oh has also participated in Diverse Energies, an anthology featuring authors of color writing about dystopian worlds with characters of color. Oh’s story featured an alternate history involving Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“[“The Last Day”] actually came out of all the research I had done on an earlier novel about World War II. I was always bothered by the idea of the ‘acceptable civilian casualties.’ The idea that military leaders can so coldly rely on a formula to determine the number of acceptable human deaths in a war is chilling. There should never be such a term as ‘acceptable civilian casualties.’ And that’s really where my story grew out of,” said Oh.

Oh wants more diverse anthologies. Oh wants more diverse everything. That urge forced her to stand up and start the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which went viral and forced BookCon to give the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team a panel at yesterday’s event. The team announced their upcoming plans and initiatives for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement.

“The response has been simply tremendous! It’s beyond what I had hoped it to be. I’ve been talking about going big for awhile now and I don’t think anyone really knew what I meant. I don’t really think I even knew what I meant. This is a result that no one could have predicted or imagined. But it is all good,” said Oh.

For more on Ellen Oh, visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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About Author

Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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