White Jade Tiger: A Twenty-Five Year Adventure

White Jade Tiger

White Jade Tiger: A Twenty-Five Year Adventure

Posted on December 27 by Julie Lawson in Fiction, Kids
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To celebrate the upcoming 25th anniversary of White Jade Tiger, Dundurn is publishing a new edition — complete with a brand new cover. The text got a makeover too.

It’s not often (actually never) that I get to tweak a manuscript years after it’s been published. I’d reread the book a few times, but one reads differently in editor mode, and I was astounded by what I discovered. It wasn’t the typos (a couple) or unnecessary space breaks or excessive adjectives (that I happily cut). It was the memories.

White Jade Tiger was my first novel. I started writing it in 1989 after a trip to China, put it aside when my teaching job wouldn’t allow enough writing time, and picked it up again in 1991 while on a leave of absence. I finished it in 1993 (during a permanent leave of absence). During the recent tweaking process, I was struck by how vividly I remembered the process of writing the book. Some passages brought back hair-tearing struggles. Others filled me with the same joy I’d felt when creating them. One particular chapter reminded me of the trick I’d used to overcome writer’s block.

When I started writing, I never thought beyond my dream — the publication of a book. It never occurred to me that once a book is published, it takes on a life of its own. When White Jade Tiger found its way into the hands of readers, wonderful things began to happen. Twenty-five years later, they’re still happening.

I didn’t expect starred reviews, or national awards nominations, or the winning of a BC Book Prize. I didn’t expect it to be so popular, consistently popular, in schools. Teachers read the book, discovered that it fit perfectly with topics such as building the railway and immigration, and began teaching it as a novel study to enrich the social studies curriculum.

White Jade Tiger has taken me to teachers’ conferences, writers’ festivals, schools and libraries throughout the country. It has been optioned for a movie, performed as a play by Kaleidoscope Theatre in Victoria, and is still the theme of walking tours in Victoria’s Chinatown. It has prompted teachers, parents and kids — hundreds of kids — to write letters telling me how much they enjoyed the book.

The kids who read White Jade Tiger in its early years are now grown-up. I’ve met dozens — a doctor, a grocery store clerk, an optician, to cite a few — who recognize my name and ask, “Are you the author of White Jade Tiger?” Yes, I say with pride. Thinking, how lucky I am to be an author. How rewarding, to know that my book has made a lasting impression on so many readers. As a new generation is introduced to the anniversary edition of White Jade Tiger, I hope for more of the same.

Julie Lawson

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Julie Lawson

Julie Lawson is the author of more than twenty children's and young adult titles. Her books have won the Sheila A. Egoff Literature Prize and been nominated for numerous awards, including various Forest of Reading Awards and the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.