Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Mandarin

Kirsten Hubbard's debut novel Like Mandarin was released on Tuesday. In the story, 14-year-old Grace wants to be like bold, carefree 17-year-old Mandarin. In Grace's words...
I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.


I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I’m so tired of being inside my body.


I would give anything to be like Mandarin
Many of us, especially during high school, spent a lot of time wanting to be just like someone else. Kirsten has invited us all to share our stories. Check out her blog for some terrific stories from many authors and a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book.


So, who was my Mandarin?


My teenage Mandarin was a girl my age who was new to our area and our school. We met the first day of high school. All 'minor niners' met in the auditorium to be assigned home rooms. Everyone from my elementary school sat together. One by one they were called to home rooms - in groups of 2, 3 and 4. I was the last one. Alone. Shy, awkward and more than a little shaky, I shuffled with the final group to our home room and took a seat against the wall, half-way down the aisle.

My Mandarin was the last to enter the room. She smiled, paused, looked around the room and spotted me. Her smile widened, and she waltzed down the aisle and plopped into the seat beside me. She grinned and introduced herself. I smiled back. Who has that kind of confidence in Grade 9?

I wasn't anything like this girl with her head held high, her shoulders straight back and her smile ready for everyone. Why had she sat next to me? Then one of the nearby boys asked if we were twins. I hadn't noticed the physical resemblences. They were a little spooky - same shade of hair, same colour of eyes, same shape of face. At the time we were even the same height and basic body shape.

Our friendship was instantaneous. I followed her sunshine for a long time. She made friends easily and often. She dated a lot - boys hovered everywhere and she loved it. She took risks, some were pretty scary. She focused on fun and always reached for those stars. She believed in herself in all things.

We eventually grew apart as we made different choices in our lives, but My Mandarin's open smile and heart sure made my high school a lot more fun. I wish I'd had the confidence to do that for someone else.

Thanks Kirsten for asking us to take this trip down memory lane. Remember to check out Kirsten's blog for more stories.

So, did you have a Mandarin? Or were you the Mandarin others wished to be?

94 comments:

  1. I love hearing these stories! What a great personalized marketing campaign!

    ReplyDelete
  2. If there was one thing I would've wished for more of in high school it would've been self-confidence.

    My Mandarin would've been all the girls who had dates and boyfriends....all those who were "going steady".

    It looks like a cool book. Thanks, Jemi!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this. My Mandarin had more self-confidence than me too ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This looks like an excellent read! And I wonder if you'll catch up with "Mandarin" again? I wanted to be the girl who played hockey and basketball with the boys, but my lack of atheletic skills kept me watching and wishing only.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great story, thanks for sharing it with us, Jemi!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Laura - thanks - I've enjoyed the ones I've read over the last few days as well. Good memories :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yvonne - you're welcome!

    That was totally me too - very little confidence and daring-do. Wish I'd taken more risks and relaxed a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lindsay - thanks! I think high school is one of those places and times where lack of self-confidence is prevalent! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lynn - I'm partway through the book and loving it. Kirsten's words are lyrical - her imagery heart stopping at times.

    I didn't do those things either - but I did do some sports :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Matthew - thanks! It's good to take a walk down memory lane every once in a while :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can't wait to read my copy.

    I wanted to be my best friend. She seemed to have it all.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Medeia - you're going to love the book. I'm only partway in, but it's written so well - such lovely phrases! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. This I'm sure is an excellent read.
    Enjoyed the post very much.
    I also wish to thanks you for coming by, much appreciated.

    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sounds like a great story! :)

    Oh...high school. I think I evolved during the process and became a bit more of a Mandarin by the end (but not by much.)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yvonne -I always enjoy dropping by your blog!!

    I'm sure you;d enjoy the book :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Elizabeth - I'm really enjoying it so far!

    I developed a little more confidence by the end of high school, but not much :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh, I definitely had a Mandarin - her name was Peggy in elementary school, Rozzie in Junior High, and Lynn in High School. Sometimes I still struggle with wanting to look like someone else, but thankfully, I don't want to "be" anyone else but me any more.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  18. Karen - I had several throughout the years as well! I'm much more comfortable in my own skin these days too, but there are some aspects of folks I'd sure like to share!

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a great story, Jemi! I can't remember idolizing any of my peers like this in high school. I did, however, admire one of my teachers a lot, and even finagled getting to work with her on a special project when I was a senior, even though she taught 7th grade. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I could have used a self confidence booster in high school too. I faked it a lot and coasted through okay though.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Laurel - thanks :)

    I did have a couple of teachers I really admired as well - some where were so passionate about their subjects. Loved how they translated that into their lessons :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Stephen - yup - a boost in confidence would have been a very good thing! High school certainly wasn't awful - but I'm so glad I never have to go back :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love this post! I'm sure you were her Mandarin too. It's funny how that works sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I've heard great things about this book and that excerpt you posted was really intriguing.

    Loved your Mandarin story. I agree with Elana, you were probably her Mandarin too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Elana - thanks :)

    I wonder... I know my sister & I have those kinds of moments!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Kare - thanks - you ladies are so sweet! :)

    I'm really enjoying the book - great characters!!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'd never thought of having a "Mandarin." Now that I have, I'd say it's a friend of mine who is sweet and fun, and has tons of friends and a close, huge family, and has the most beautiful white hair. She would be my Mandarin, although it's too late for me to have a huge family.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Helen - I think your friend would be thrilled to know how you feel. She sounds lovely :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a lovely memory of your very own Mandarin!! Thanks for sharing! Sometimes people drift apart - no reason, they just do, but it's the recall of precious times spent in the past that's most enduring! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  30. Nichole - thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Old Kitty - exactly - the drifting apart is often quite natural. It was in this case - although I do wonder how her life turned out :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. What a wonderful post. I loved your story and now I've added LIKE MANDARIN to my "to read" list. Thank you for this! : )

    ReplyDelete
  33. Cynthia - thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed my memory :) The book is chock full of lovely moments!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Beautiful post, Jemi! And I think you DO do that for other people. At least out here in this big online world! You did for me! You came up with a smile and a friendly word and you became my friend while I sat quietly against the wall wondering if I really wanted anyone to notice me ... knowing I did but wondering what the price would be. Gosh ... this is getting deep! Sigh ... THANK YOU, Jemi! For being my friend! One that I strive to be like for others!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Beth - Thank you! You're such a sweetie - you've got me tearing up here. I'm honoured that you feel this way. It has been more than a pleasure meeting you online and becoming your friend. And you are a fabulous friend to me and to others - you always make me smile! Thanks again :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. I suppose there are still people in my life who I look on as my Mandarin but I've certainly never been Mandarin material. I'm nowhere near comfortable enough in my skin for that type of role.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Rosalind - There are bits and pieces of others I'd like to share or even steal :), but I'm okay being in my own skin nowadays!

    And Rosalind, the way you've stood up for others with the hospital care, you are definitely one of my Mandarins!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I had a Mandarin in that she was/is more graceful than I and more outgoing. I still wish I had those aspects, but I also know (now) that I don't wish I was her. She's still one of my best friends and I love her without hesitation, but I've grown more accepting of who and what I am.

    ReplyDelete
  39. My Mandarin is actually the inspiration for the protag of my WIP! It's a really big learning experience being inside the head of someone who seems so "perfect". My protag does not ever feel perfect... Things are always so much better on the other side of that fence!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Victoria - that is awesome!!! I agree - there are some traits of folks I wouldn't mind having, but I'm okay being me :)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Laura - that is so very cool! What a great tribute :)

    And I agree - it's never quite what we think!

    ReplyDelete
  42. I really don't remember, but I don't recall wanting to be anyone else. I do remember wanting to be somebody and leave the town in which I lived.

    ReplyDelete
  43. M Pax - that's also very much like the character in Kirsten's book. I've always been a homebody myself and have wanted to stick around :)

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm loving the stories I'm hearing from this nonblogfest. :) It's so interesting that everyone has a Mandarin. I wonder - how many of us were someone else's Mandarin?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Bethany - it seems just about everyone had at least one Mandarin. And you have a great question! It would be so neat to find out we were someone else's Mandarin :)

    ReplyDelete
  46. Great post!
    I had many - I wanted to be just like them - I wanted to be anyone but me. But when I look at how those girls lives have turned out and how mine is now - there is no one I'd rather be than me.
    I was so messed up I could imagine being anyone's mandarin
    xx

    ReplyDelete
  47. Michelle - thanks! :)

    It's funny how we wanted something so strongly in high school, but have mostly grown up to realize we're pretty much fine the way we are. Wish we could have learned it sooner ;)

    ReplyDelete
  48. I had at least one Mandarin....What was great was at our class reunion, she was just as pretty and nice as she was in high school. She didn't marry the most handsome guy in the world (or the wealthiest), but he is a really nice guy.

    ReplyDelete
  49. What a lovely story! I hope you guys are still in touch.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I didn't have my Mandarin but it's possible that I was someone's Mandarin :) I've always tried to be myself and to be original. Later on when I worked as a teacher in a high school, the main thing I did was to encourage teens to be themselves, to develop their own talents, their own charisma, their own personality and style. That's very important in today's society which usually teaches us wrong things from newspapers, TV and other media.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Sharon - that's awesome. So many times it seems these Mandarins were just on the surface - glad to hear yours was still wonderful years later :)

    ReplyDelete
  52. Deniz - thanks :) I actually haven't seen her in a whole lot of years. She moved out of town long before we had Internet to stay in touch.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Dez - totally agree! It's hard to encourage kids to follow their own paths and desires when so much of society points to being part of the pack. I keep trying too!

    ReplyDelete
  54. I didn't have a Mandarin...I was always pretty confident.

    But I loved Like Mandarin (it's very well written), and I loved reading everyone's LM stories, including yours. :)

    Have you ever tired to find her now? Ya know, to see how life turned out for her?

    Have a lovely weekend, Jemi.
    Love,
    Lola

    ReplyDelete
  55. Lola - I did look into trying to find her a few years back, but I didn't have any luck. I don't know if she's married - and that makes it harder to find her by last name.

    Like Mandarin is a powerful story - I'm really enjoying it!

    ReplyDelete
  56. I guess there were others with certain traits that I wished that I had had, but over all I was glad to be me.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
  57. Your own Mandarin sounds like the outline to a great YA story! I think there's only one person who's ever been My Mandarin, and that's my sister. She's a confident, kind, generous, fun-loving, beautiful, never-miss-an-opportunity kind of person. When I compare my life experience to hers I often feel like I've missed out!

    ReplyDelete
  58. Lee - you were lucky - your parents installed a lot of confidence in you from an early age. I'm still working on it! :)

    ReplyDelete
  59. Rachel - thank you! And that's not a bad idea .... :)

    My sister is another of my Mandarins. She has always been so easy with people. They're drawn to her and she finds it easy to make small talk. I STINK at small talk!

    ReplyDelete
  60. I had a friend like that in high school too, that just singled me out, of the blue (and stuck with me!) Thanks for brining back that wonderful memory. (Actually we are STILL FRIENDS, but so long distance, its very different now)

    I just finished Like Mandarin - it was wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  61. Margo - I was thrilled my Mandarin picked me too! I'd love to know what she's up to these days :)

    I'm really enjoying the book as well - but I'm only about a 1/3 of the way in :)

    ReplyDelete
  62. Sounds like an interesting reading.

    Thanks for sharing your Mandarin experience, Jemi. It's a lovely one. :)

    ReplyDelete
  63. Mari - thanks! My own Mandarin helped me grow a lot!

    I'm really enjoying Like Mandarin - so well written :)

    ReplyDelete
  64. This looks like a wonderful book. I love the personal story. It resonates with everyone as we were either one of those girls, or feel a connection.

    Denise<3

    ReplyDelete
  65. My Madarin was a woman I babysat for. She was 24, married to a dentist, and had three kids. She was gorgeous and sweet and just plain wonderful. Oh, how I wanted to grow up to be just like her!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Catherine - she sounds lovely! It's interesting that although many of the Mandarins in all the stories I've read were beautiful, that wasn't the most important aspect of them! :)

    ReplyDelete
  67. Denise - your comment isn't showing up here for some reason - I'm not sure why...

    I'll copy it into here -- "This looks like a wonderful book. I love the personal story. It resonates with everyone as we were either one of those girls, or feel a connection" - Denise (L'Aussie)

    Thank you! I think there are a lot of similarities to what we all went through during high school - it can be tough :)

    ReplyDelete
  68. I didn't have a particular Mandarin, I just didn't want to be me ;)

    ReplyDelete
  69. Lynda - but look how well you turned out! I'm glad you were able to stay you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  70. this is so fantastic, and Kristin's premise is so brilliant and universal! My story's sort of like yours in that my Mandarin found me. I was very introverted in HS, and once my brother & BFF left my "new" HS, I was alone. In 10th grade. WORSE than 9th b/c in 9th, everyone establishes groups.

    Anyway, long story short, I gotcha. And this is so great. But what we learned from our Mandarins, yes? Even though our choices were different, we took away the power of that confidence~ :o) <3

    ReplyDelete
  71. Leigh - you're so right - Grade 10 can be so tough to find a group in! Sounds like your Mandarin was awesome too! I owe her a lot for teaching me to believe and to risk! :)

    ReplyDelete
  72. The writing is so beautiful..I can't wait to read this one. Thanks for sharing your LM story!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    ReplyDelete
  73. Thanks for sharing this--I could picture it as I read it. I'm loving reading about all the Mandarins out there!

    ReplyDelete
  74. Angela - the writing is indeed gorgeous! I've gone back and reread several sections just for the beauty :)

    ReplyDelete
  75. Amie - thanks! It has been a lot of fun reading all the LM stories! :)

    ReplyDelete
  76. I didn't really have a Mandarin - not that I was anyone's that I know of. I was just lucky in that I was confident in who I was from an early age.

    Your story is really sweet!

    ReplyDelete
  77. Tara - you were lucky to have that confidence from an early age! I'm glad you enjoyed hearing about my Mandarin :)

    ReplyDelete
  78. Theresa - thanks! She sure was a sweetie to make me feel accepted so quickly. :)

    ReplyDelete
  79. What a great story. I love that each of our Mandarin's were so different. :D

    ReplyDelete
  80. Awww....what a nice Mandarin story. I've really enjoyed reading all the Mandarin stories in the blogosphere this week. Hmmm....I may have to post my own...

    ReplyDelete
  81. Stina - I agree! It's been a lot of fun to read about the various styles of Mandarins :)

    ReplyDelete
  82. Anita - thank you! I agree - it's been a lot of fun reading the stories - and you should definitely post your own.

    ReplyDelete
  83. ...I've heard so much about this book, and it's only just been released!

    Being a youth coach, I'm hoping my presence allows others to see me as their Mandarin...or perhaps I'm giving myself too much credit. But tolerating their parents should at least be worth a pat on the back;)

    EL

    ReplyDelete
  84. Elliot - it's a beautifully written book - I'm not surprised it's being talked about :)

    I don't think you give yourself enough credit Elliot. I think are most definitely a Mandarin - in all parts of your life.

    ReplyDelete
  85. This is my first visit over here, Jemi. I've just added the book to my e-shelf. Love your write-up. The most extroverted girl in my 9th grade class found her way to the empty seat next to me in physical science (hers was in the first row, mine the back row). I remember asking myself as she rattled on, "Why does she want to talk to me?" She introduced me to the rest of her friends (all cheerleaders). 25+ years later, they're my best friends.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Ezzy - welcome! :)

    That's an awesome story! I love when the friendships last for that long! I've got a different friend from high school who I rarely see, but when we do, it's like no time has passed! :)

    ReplyDelete
  87. hi Jemi!
    I'm so late, but thank you for participating. I love this story, and that your Mandarin seemed like a truly awesome person. (as do you. romantic mysteries AND steampunk? genre-jumping ftw!!)

    ReplyDelete
  88. Kirsten - thank you!! :)

    There were so many terrific Mandarin stories! This was a wonderful nonblogfest! And I'm loving your novel - it's so beautifully written. My heart is breaking for the girls.

    Genre jumping is a blast - I hope I never have to settle to just one :)

    Thanks so much for dropping by!

    ReplyDelete
  89. I've heard a lot of wonderful things about this book.

    Thanks for sharing your Mandarin story with us. Honestly, I don't remember anyone growing up I would have wanted to be like. Not anyone I knew. There were countless "mandarins" in my life as a young adult. I like to think I've made peace with myself now. I'd like to be my own Mandarin :)

    Cheers!
    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  90. What a thought-provoking post! I had certain qualities of a 'Mandarin' although I never garnered a fervent following. I guess some girls wanted to know certain whys and hows about my attitude or persona.
    Thanks for the book review, will look out for 'Mandarin'.

    ReplyDelete
  91. Jen - it's a riveting story! The two main characters are unique and fascinating! :)

    It's nice to grow up and be at peace with who we are!

    ReplyDelete
  92. Eeleen - it really is an amazing book - I thoroughly enjoyed it! Wonderful characters & a touching story :)

    It's wonderful you were able to be confident in yourself and to have those Mandarin aspects!

    Thanks for dropping by!

    ReplyDelete