“I don’t think Father likes you spending so much time with us,” Adele said.
“Why?” I asked. I wanted to hear it said out loud, in real words. I wanted to understand it, not just to sense it in my gut.
“He wants to spend time with you,” Adele said. Her smile was so kind, it bordered on pity.
“Why?” I asked again. I focused on Adele’s gentle, reluctant face and avoided Helen’s shrewd eyes, her eyebrows that sloped to a point.
“Because he wants you to be like him,” Helen said.
Adele added, “Big and strong like him.”
“But I want to be like you,” I said, grabbing onto Adele’s knee. “I want to have hair like you. I want to be pretty like you.” Her sad, saintly expression frightened me.
“You can’t.” Helen had turned in her chair. Adele glared at her. “What? He can’t. You can’t, Peter. You can be handsome, like Father or Bruce Lee.” She pointed at a poster of theirs, one that Father disapproved of: dot-pixelated like a comic book, a shirtless Bruce Lee posed in fighting stance, his body warped wide with muscle. I stared at the poster in horror. I started to cry.
“You’re a boy.” Helen said it like she thought it would be comforting.
“I am not! I am not!”
Bonnie was always delighted when someone older than her cried. She started poking me in the side. “A boy! A boy! A boy!”
-Excerpt from For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu. Copyright © 2014 by Kim Fu. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Kim Fu: Four second-generation immigrant Chinese sisters, one born male.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
KF: American Studies by Mark Merlis and The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
KF: Coffee, around forty-five books a year, and more coffee.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
KF: Sideways answer—I wish I’d never read My Best Stories by Alice Munro, so the rest of her books could have felt completely new.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
KF: Going through the process of editing, publishing, and promoting a novel has made me see books differently. It’s easier for me to recognize and appreciate the merits of books that don’t land for me, personally, and to imagine the pains their authors took in constructing them.
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Kim Fu was born in 1987 and holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of British Columbia. She has written for NPR, Maisonneuve, The Rumpus, The Tyee, The Stranger, Prairie Fire, Grain, Room, and Best Canadian Essays, among others. She is the news columns editor for This, a magazine of progressive politics now in its 47th year, and writes the advice column ASK FU! for the YourBoxClub.com blog. She lives in Seattle.