Renée Ahdieh: Flame in the Mist
In conversation with Roshani Chokshi and S. Jae-Jones
Wednesday, May 24
Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill

By six-thirty last Wednesday evening, the rain had picked up its pace. People shook their coats and closed their umbrellas as they sought shelter in Flyleaf Books. Renée Ahdieh, a UNC-Chapel Hill grad and New York Times best-selling author, was hosting a book signing for her new YA book, Flame in the Mist, along with two other successful, female, Asian authors, Roshani Chokshi and S. Jae-Jones.

The three fantasy fiction writers drew an audience of tween girls, women of all ages, and a number of men, which took up the entire back room of the bookstore. The first time I came across Ahdieh’s name was about a year ago when I was scouring the Internet late one night for good summer reads by women of color, featuring characters that looked like me.

It was harder than you’d think.

Sitting in the at-capacity room with eager fans ready to soak in knowledge from these women felt like an almost spiritual experience. They talked about funny things like writing rituals and the most absurd things they’d done for research, but they often came back to the importance of telling their own stories. It sounded like a cliché, but the more I listened, the more I understood what they meant.

Growing up, it was rare to see myself reflected in any medium, including books. Now, decades later, having three successful Asian women talk about their best-selling books, their characters, and how they write for their past teenage selves was comforting and empowering. They encouraged aspiring writers to write from their experiences and what they know to be true. At the end of the night, all three authors had shiny copies of their books on the table as audience members line up in front of them, waiting patiently to get their copies signed.

This summer, I won’t have to do any research.