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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Story Secrets: BAMBOO PEOPLE by Mitali Perkins + Giveaway!

Tell Me a Secret - Worldwide Blog Tour

Today's TELL ME A SECRET Tour stop is my first vlog interview with the very lovely Daisy Whitney, debut author of THE MOCKINGBIRDS (November!) and vloggista - check out our video conversation, then comment here and there to enter for this week's prizes! (Speaking of which, author Stephanie Kuehnert is also giving away a copy of TMAS right here!)

It's Book Party Day for one of the writers I admire most in the world, Mitali Perkins! Not only is this woman a deep and thoughtful writer, but she actively promotes discussion about culture and race in teen literature. All this, besides being a wonderful person to know!

Mitali's seventh book, BAMBOO PEOPLE , is born today, and already it's a Junior Library Guild Selection, an Indie Next Pick, and it received a Publisher's Weekly *starred review*. Stop by Mitali's blog today to help her celebrate, and comment here for a chance to win the book!


Bamboo People takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. It’s narrated by a fifteen-year-old teen forced to fight in the Army and a sixteen-year-old teen on the run. They’re on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma. Chiko, the Burmese boy, isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-loving boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family's home and bamboo fields. When they meet in the jungle, their lives are changed forever.

Holly: Why this book, why now?

Mitali: I wanted to write a guy book before my teens got too old to enjoy it :)

For three years my husband, children, and I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While we were there we visited the Karenni refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. I was astounded at how the Karenni kept their hopes up despite incredible loss, still dreaming and talking of the day when they would once again become a free people. I was impressed, too, by how creatively they used bamboo. Homes, bridges, transportation, weapons, food, storage, irrigation—all these and more depended on the resilient, lavish, and ecologically efficient bamboo plant. I began to think about that plant as an excellent symbol for the peoples of that region.

During that time I also began to understand how tough life is for Burmese teenagers. Only about a third are enrolled in school, and most can’t find jobs. According to international human rights organizations, Burma has the largest number of child soldiers in the world, and that number is growing. These young soldiers are taught that the Karenni and other ethnic groups are the cause of the problems in their country and are rewarded with money and food if they burn, destroy, torture, and kill ethnic minorities.

How did you get into the distinct voices of Chiko and Tu Reh?
What would I do if my mother were hungry and my only option to feed her was to fight in the army? What about if I saw soldiers burning my home and farm while I ran for my life? Wouldn’t I be terrified, like Chiko? Wouldn’t I be angry, like Tu Reh? As I wrote the book, I had to enter into strong emotions with my characters and imagine what I might do under such terrible circumstances.

Your biggest inspiration?
My faith, and crossing borders in life to meet and love people very different than myself.

What kind of process did this novel go through to become a finished book?
The book has been in one form or another for ten years. It started as a picture book, morphed into a novel told only from Tu Reh’s perspective, and then I added Chiko’s half of the book. Finally, I rewrote all of Tu Reh’s half completely to keep the action going chronologically—initially both halves of the book happened at the same time. What a challenge! But I think it made the book stronger.

What do you most hope your readers will take away?
I hope every book I write serves as a window and a mirror. I’d like readers to see what life is like in Burma, as well as measure the compassion and courage in their own lives.

I’m interested in the power of forgiveness as well as the nature of heroism. Both strike me as the result of many “small” choices in life’s journey instead of one huge moment.

What’s up next?
Surviving a busy speaking schedule this spring, and heading back to Thailand this summer to visit the camps and hand-carry copies of Bamboo People as gifts.


Thank you, Mitali!

Mitali has generously provided one copy of BAMBOO PEOPLE to one lucky commenter on this post* - just leave a comment below to tell us a) why you'd like to read BAMBOO PEOPLE, b) if you've ever had to make a sacrifice for family, or c) whether you think compassion and courage are valuable qualities in our present world. Contest is open until Monday at 5pm PST. Comment away!

(*Contest open to U.S. mailing addresses only)


  1. I swear, Holly, you have THE BEST giveaways! Great interview, too! What would I do without this blog? :) Now, lets get down to business :)

    1. Why I want to read BAMBOO PEOPLE: I have more than one reasoning for this! :) Number one, all I do is read! Reading this would expanded the field of books that I have read :) Also, it's something different! I've never heard of a story like this. It's very intriging.Also, the cover is very eye catching. It's one of those books that I may know nothing about, I see the cover so I pick it up and read the back, and buy it! Now, even if I don't win, I think I might have to save to get this book.

    2.If I have ever made a sacrifice for my family: YES! I still get thank yous for this today. Just this past year, I was staying the weekend at my fathers house. My dad was doing some work outside. I'm not sure the name of the tool he was using, but it was eletric, and somehow, I'm not sure how, there was a glitch. I honestly know even know how it happened, but the house started on fire. My dad was flipping out, he ran inside and got my step mom and little brother and sister. We grabbed the phone and ran outside. Both my step mother, and father suffer from asthma. Our bird was in side. That bird was out familys life. It was a huge part of all of us. My dad attempted to call 911, but the phone died. My dad was running over to the neighbors to get their phone, they weren't home. He had to run to the nearest house, which was half a mile up the street. My little brother and sister, and step mom, were crying because our baby (the bird) was stuck inside the house, that was filled with smoke. Me, being the person I am, ran into the house as fast as I could, grabbed the bird cage and sprinted back as fast as I could. I saved that bird for my family, and i think it was the best thing I have ever done.

    3.Compassion and courage in todays world: That is a good question! I do believe they both compassion and courage are very valuable in todays world. They seem so hard to find. People search for those types of things in people when they are looking for new friends, or possibly a soul mate. It's like a book. If there were only two copies of your favorite book in the whole entire world, wouldn't it make it more valuable, to you, and moneywise? Knowing that you are one of two people IN THE WORLD who have that book? Do you see what I mean? I totally believe one hundred percent that compassion and courage are valuable!


  2. compassion and courage are definitely still valuable, those things will never go out of style

  3. Compassion and Courage will always be valuable qualities...as long as we live in a world of humans I am convinced we will live in a world with humanity. That is one of my greatest wishes for all.


  4. Great giveaway! I think compassion and courage are important qualities and they'll always have value...Come to think of it, they may be among the best qualities a person could ever hope to have.

  5. Wow awesome giveaway!
    I think that compassion and courage are extremely important qualities in the world. Without them, the world would be evil with everyone running around crazy. Both compassion and courage are highly esteemed in the Bible as well. Jesus wants us to be very compassionate, to everyone, including your enemies, and since it's important to follow God, it's important for us to have both qualities. :)

  6. I think that compassion and courage are present in today's world. I am so excited about this upcoming generation of teens. They have such a collective conscience and a can-do approach to helping others. I offer my students the opportunity to choose a lot of what we study in class. Without fail, they choose to study the lives of those in other cultures and truly want to understand what it's like to live in that culture. Most importantly, though, this generation has a sense that what they say does matter and that their voices will be listened to. I think that this is a result of social networking. It's awesome.

    I really, really want to read this book. It may fit in with a course I teach on multicultural lit. I can imagine pairing it with a YA book I teach that takes place in Sierra Leone.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

    hderaps @ mbrsd . org

  7. I think courage and compassion are still very valuable. Though I'm not so sure we have a lot of people left with those qualties.

  8. Great interview. The book sounds fascinating. It's interesting that it started as a PB.

  9. Thanks for coming over to support Mitali, everyone! I tell you, this woman has a soul more precious than gold. I love her to pieces, and I can't wait to introduce one of you to her books!

  10. Loved the vlog interview!

    I can't enter for the Bamboo People giveaway, but it sounds fascinating.