Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Diversity in Fiction - Natalie Dias Lorenzi, author of Flying the Dragon

Diversity in Fiction
Guest post by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

I teach at a Title I school where only 12% of my students speak English at home. Collectively they speak 39 languages and come from all corners of the globe. As a librarian, I try to stock our library shelves with books whose characters represent a wide range of cultures. I want my students to see themselves in the pages of books, to make connections and to identify with the plight of the characters whom they’ve come to know and love.

Newbery-award winning author Christopher Paul Curtis visited our school a few months ago, sharing his journey form auto factory worker to award-winning children’s author. During the Q&A that followed, one student asked, “Why do all of your books have African American main characters?” Curtis paused for a moment, then explained that when he was growing up, none of the characters in books he read looked like he did. “I wanted to change that,” he said.

In the past five years, the number of multicultural characters in books has risen significantly. Some of my students’ favorites include Wendy Shang’s The Great Wall of Lucy Lu, Jenny Lombard’s Drita, My Home Girl, Laura Resau’s Star in the Forest, and Candace Fleming’s Lowji Discovers America. But there are not enough multicultural books out there for readers who need them.

But it’s not just kids from other countries and cultures who need these books; we all need these books. Hiroshi, one of the main characters in my middle grade novel Flying the Dragon, is Japanese. Skye, the other main character, is Japanese-American. I am neither. But as an ESL teacher, I have worked with countless brave children like Hiroshi and Skye, caught between cultures, who struggle each day to discover who they are. I marvel at their resilience as they wade their way through the arduous task of learning to communicate in a second language.

Readers have told me that, after reading Flying the Dragon, they now have more empathy towards kids who are new to their school or who don’t yet speak English. As an author, this is one of the nicest things I could hope to hear.

Yes, children like Hiroshi and Skye need multicultural stories. Every child deserves the chance to identify with characters in books. But we all need these stories, not only to see ourselves, but to see each other.

Flying the Dragon
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Expected publication: July 1, 2012
Publisher: Charlesbridge

American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye's grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best.

Add on Goodreads, or buy from The Book Depository.

About the author:
Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a teacher, librarian, wife, mother, and traveler, not necessarily in that order. She specializes in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) and has lived in Germany, Italy, and Japan. She now lives with her husband and three children outside of Washington, DC during the school year, and in Trieste, Italy, in the summers. Flying the Dragon is her first novel.

Find out more at NatalieDiasLorenzi.com  

Giveaway: I have a giveaway currently open for a signed copy of Flying the Dragon plus swag. Find out more here. 


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Tami! :-)

  2. Thanks for the (guest) post! Am excited to check out the book!



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