The Search for Home: A Guest Post from The Dragon Warrior Author Katie Zhao

What is Home?

Home. A four-letter word that can carry many different meanings.

When I was younger, I thought of “home” in its most literal sense, as the house in the Midwestern suburbs where my family lived. Now that I’m older, I understand the word “home” to carry multiple definitions. The search for home, in every sense of the word, is what drives Faryn’s quest in The Dragon Warrior.

Home, to Faryn, me, and many Chinese diaspora, can be found in Chinatown’s bustling streets crowded with diverse populations. Home is the smells of potstickers and rice, the loud conversations held in many different Chinese dialects. Home is the fusion of the rich Chinese and American cultures, the clash of our two worlds—the country where our families immigrated from, and the country where they set out to carry out a new legacy.

In The Dragon Warrior, Faryn and Alex leave the only home they’ve ever known, a secret warrior society called the Jade Society, during an important Chinese holiday: the Lunar New Year. The siblings travel through Chinatowns in search of their true home. The “home” that underlies Faryn’s quest isn’t just another Chinatown, however. Home is also a person—the siblings’ missing father, who they’re desperately searching for. Home is a sense of self—the belongingness that Faryn and Alex never truly felt at the Jade Society, where they were seen as outcasts. As they journey across Chinatowns, the siblings get closer and closer to finding home, and in unexpected places, with unexpected people.

In writing The Dragon Warrior, I wove into the story my own 23-year-long, desperate search for “home”. The protagonists’ quest through Chinatowns mirrors an identity journey that I myself travelled, both literally and figuratively. Growing up, family vacations across the United States usually meant several stops to Chinatowns. I didn’t really appreciate why my family was so drawn to Chinatowns back then, but now I understand that it was an attraction to a sense of familiarity, of comfort—an almost-return to our cultural roots. For a lot of Chinese diaspora, Chinatowns are just about the closest we can be to a sense of home.

When I think of Chinatown now, I reflect on myself as a young girl figuring out who I was and where I belonged in the world. I think of home as a place, as a people, and as a sense of self. The Jade Society in San Francisco’s Chinatown is the place Faryn literally calls home, but her journey through Chinatowns is what brings her closer to finding a true sense of home. Along the way, she and the other characters discover places, people, and a sense of purpose, that all bring them closer to home. For myself, New York City is my new literal home, but I consider my true home to lie with my friends and family, and in my undying passion for writing, which is inseparable from my identity.

If there is one takeaway I wish for readers to have from The Dragon Warrior, it is this: we are all the heroes of our own stories, battling (inner) demons, and journeying far and wide to discover our senses of purpose. I don’t claim to have the answers to the question “what is home”, nor do I believe the journey to find home has a definitive ending. But my greatest hope is that, within the pages of this book, diaspora readers can find their way home.

The Dragon Warrior is on B&N bookshelves now.

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