An all-Filipino young adult (YA) character is the new protagonist in the first Philippine YA story book by Scholastic, publisher of the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series.
“What Things Mean” by Filipino writer Sophia Lee features the character of Olive, a 14-year-old, big-haired, brown-skinned girl who grew up in a household with cream-colored beauties.
Lee says of the book, “I wanted to write a story that I would have wanted to see when I was a young adult myself. I asked, ‘Why are all the heroines blonde and have blue eyes?’” she said.
“Young adult stories themselves, we didn’t have a lot of them when I was growing up and we don’t have Pinoy YA.”
“It didn’t occur to me until very late in my life that it’s because no one was writing it,” she said.
The Filipino big extended family living in one house, and the Pinoy way of eating form part of the Filipino culture presented in the book, Lee adds.
“What Things Mean” is the grand prize winner at the 2014 Scholastic Asian book Awards. The winning novel was given a publishing grant.
The story was first written as a class requirement for Lee’s Creative Writing course at the University of the Philippines Diliman. The published book is a longer version of the original work.
“The project for that class was to come up with a novel-length story within the semester, which is around three to four months. I wrote the body of the story to get the grades, but after that, my professor encouraged me to join the contest,” Lee said in a BusinessWorld interview.
“What Things Mean” was launched at the 2016 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, one of the most prestigious children’s literary events in Asia.