A Letter to My Main Character: Daughter of Xanadu


Today we have a special treat from Random House Teens! Dori Jones Yang stopped by Unbound Worlds to talk about her novel, Daughter of Xanadu, which comes out in paperback on Tuesday, January 10, 2012. Here’s a little more about the book:

Athletic and strong willed, Princess Emmajin’s determined to do what no woman has done before: become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. In the Mongol world the only way to achieve respect is to show bravery and win glory on the battlefield. The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu. Marco has no skills in the “manly arts” of the Mongols: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Still, he charms the Khan with his wit and story-telling. Emmajin sees a different Marco as they travel across 13th-century China, hunting ‘dragons’ and fighting elephant-back warriors. Now she faces a different battle as she struggles with her attraction towards Marco and her incredible goal of winning fame as a soldier.

We asked Dori to write a letter to her main character, Princess Emmajin. Read on to see what Dori has to say to the warrior princess as she prepares for the battlefield.

Dear Emmajin,

Oh, Emmajin. You’re at the very start of your life, about to leave the familiar royal courtyards of your grandfather, the Great Khan, and there’s so much you don’t know about the roads and rivers and hills and humans outside those thick red palace walls.

I can’t tell you who I am, but I want you to know that I – unlike all of your family around you –  champion your wild and crazy dream. Even though you were born female, and therefore were expected to marry and form a valuable alliance for your grandfather, you do have the power to take charge of your own life. As the eldest granddaughter, favored by the Emperor, your wishes will be heard, though not exactly in the way you expect.

I realize that almost everyone around you can’t imagine why you want to become a warrior. But I get it. I myself – though I come from a distant, future land you cannot even imagine – rejected traditional female pursuits and insisted on barging into a field not normal for women. It wasn’t warfare, and frankly I’m not keen on all that archery and swordsmanship and killing on the battlefield. But I understand you: I know why you noticed that warriors were the ones most admired in your society and set your mind on becoming a soldier.

Emmajin. At the age of sixteen, you are full grown, and you know your heart better than anyone else. But please be prepared. You will meet someone who will challenge the basic values of your upbringing, someone who sees everything from a radically different perspective. Stand firm as those winds of shock threaten to knock you down. His views – and his looks – and his ideas will seem weird, bizarre, otherworldly. But peer beneath the surface. Harken to what bubbles through his charming words. Of course you will not accept all his strange ways. But when you learn to see your own people, your culture, your family’s familiar stories from his perspective, it will open your eyes with wonder. Dawning over you will be a fresh sense of who you are, how your tribe looks to others from faraway lands, and what new possibilities that might open up for your life.

Yes, Emmajin, you will fight in battles. You will face adversaries you never imagined. You will wrestle a dragon, face down elephants, discover an explosive new weapon, and find powers within yourself you didn’t know were there. You may even achieve your dream of becoming a legend in your own time.

But you will also find deeper truths. When you return to the Emperor’s courtyards, you will see with new eyes. And you will discover an even wilder and crazier dream.

Click here to learn more about Daughter of Xanadu and read an excerpt from the book. And make sure to look for Daughter of Xanadu in paperback on Tuesday, January 10, 2012!

About Dori: Fluent in Mandarin, Dori Jones Yang was a foreign correspondent in China forBusiness Week. She also wrote a business book about Starbucks Coffee Company. She and her family have traveled to Mongolia and visited the site of Xanadu, now in ruins, and the site of Khubilai Khan’s palace at Khanbalik, which is now the Forbidden City in Beijing.