Maddie Moravek, a Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart sophomore from Libertyville, is a big fan of Jean Kwok’s work. Thanks to support from Ragdale Center for the Arts and a Lake Forest resident’s donation, Maddie was able to enjoy an informal lunch with the best-selling author on April 25 as part of a select group of fellow students sharing a strong interest in writing.
She described the experience as truly inspiring. “I’ve always liked writing, so it was great to hear from someone who has actually made it a career,” Maddie says. “I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to meet with and learn from such a successful author. It was amazing all around and truly a highlight of the school year for me.”
Kwok, the New York Times and international best-selling author of novels that include Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown, also gave a formal presentation focusing on her life story and the craft of writing to Woodlands Academy 8th period English classes. She then answered questions from students at the all-girls college-preparatory day-and-boarding high school in Lake Forest.
The students were fascinated by Kwok’s dynamic storytelling as well as her description of the real-life events that inspired aspects of her novels, according to Woodlands Academy English teacher Jennifer Brostrom.
“The opportunity to learn first-hand from an award-winning author was immensely motivating,” Brostrom said. “Jean Kwok’s message for our Wood- lands students was to embrace their own unique potential, to reject limitations, and to recognize that failure is an inevitable experience on the road to success.”
Kwok immigrated to Brooklyn from Hong Kong when she was 5 years old and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her child- hood. Her literary work has been published in 18 countries and taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world. Kwok has been selected for many honors including the American Library Association Alex Award, the Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award international shortlist. She currently resides in the Netherlands with her husband, two sons, and four cats.