Meet National Book Award Finalist Lisa Ko
The author of The Leavers on being perennially timely
The 2017 National Book Awards (also known as the Oscars of the literary world), will be held on November 15th in New York City. In preparation for the ceremony, and to celebrate all of the wonderful books and authors nominated for the awards this year, Literary Hub will be sharing short interviews with each of the finalists in all four categories: Young People’s Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.
Lisa Ko’s The Leavers (Algonquin Books / Workman Publishing) is a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. The novel centers on Deming Guo, a Chinese immigrant whose mother mysteriously disappears one day, turning his young world upside down. Literary Hub asked Lisa a few questions about her book, her favorite things, and her life as a writer.
Who do you most wish would read your book? (your boss, your childhood bully, Michelle Obama, etc.)
My grandparents, if they could.
What’s the best book you read this year?
I loved Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s A Kind of Freedom.
What time of day do you write (and why)?
Mornings, when things are clearer.
How do you tackle writer’s block?
Watching a film or seeing visual art that inspires me, so I can soak in something isn’t only words.
Which non-literary piece of culture—film, tv show, painting, song—could you not imagine your life without?
Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.
I keep seeing this novel described as “timely”—does it feel timely to you? What’s your relationship, positive or negative, to that designation? How did this story come to you?
It’s interesting, because I started writing The Leavers in 2009, inspired by stories in the news about immigrant families that had been forcibly separated by the U.S. government. So it was timely then and timely now.