Lisa Ko started writing “The Leavers” nearly a decade ago, but its theme of immigration could just as easily be ripped from today’s headlines.
Ko will visit the Schlow Centre Region Library Monday for a talk about “The Leavers.” She will read passages from the book and discuss the research behind it. A book signing will follow.
The novel centers around Deming Guo and his mother, Peilan, who are separated after an immigration raid in New York City. Deming is and adopted by a pair of college professors in upstate New York and becomes Daniel Wilkinson, while Peilan makes her way back to her native China without him and takes on a new identity as Polly.
Deming, Daniel, Peilan and Polly take turns narrating throughout the book and share many of the same issues feeling comfortable in their own skin as their surroundings and circumstances change. The book was inspired by articles Ko read about families who were split up as a result of immigration raids.
“As a writer and a storyteller, my first and foremost goal is to tell a really good story. I love when people identify with the characters and feel that story gives them more context into issues about immigration,” Ko said. “I experimented with different structures and different points of view to find the one that worked the best to tell Deming and Peilan’s story.”
“The Leavers” is Ko’s first novel. She’s traveled the country since the book was released last year and enjoyed hearing about how it has impacted readers.
“It feels like the characters are out in the world as well rather than only in my head like they were when I was writing the book,” Ko said.
Ko’s visit is happening thanks to a collaboration between Schlow and the Diversity Council within Penn State’s Office of Outreach and Online Education. Last year, the organizations partnered to bring author Firoozeh Dumas to the area.
“Lisa’s book was nominated for a National Book Award, one of the most prestigious awards that can be given to a book,” said Maria Burchill, Schlow’s head of adult services. “The subject matter hits close to home as well as it discusses immigration and the immigrant experience.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Lisa Ko reading and discussion
- When: 6:30-8 p.m. Monday
- Where: Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 S. Allen St., State College
- Info: www.schlowlibrary.org