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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525

Yep begins The Lost Garden by taking readers through his memories of his first home, store, and courtyard garden, which his deceased father so lovingly nurtured. He ends the book with a metaphor of seeds of that garden stirring within his imagination, within his heart, and within his soul.

Yep’s...

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Yep begins The Lost Garden by taking readers through his memories of his first home, store, and courtyard garden, which his deceased father so lovingly nurtured. He ends the book with a metaphor of seeds of that garden stirring within his imagination, within his heart, and within his soul.

Yep’s skillful use of language can be perceived throughout the book. Metaphors and figurative language create comparisons that make the characters come alive. Even Jezebel, the old family car, is personified: “Being elderly for a car, Jezebel disliked hills and would protest by wheezing constantly up the slope like an old asthmatic.” At an early age, Yep realized that “what made people most interesting were their imperfections. Their quirks were what made them unique and set them apart from everyone else.”

Yep recounts his childhood as a grocer’s son, living in a predominantly African American neighborhood. As a third-generation Chinese American, he found the issue of identity a difficult one. He claims that writing helped him in his search for cultural identity. His books have a wide popularity among young adult readers, probably because his theme of being an outsider—an alien—appeals to them.

In his autobiography, Yep emphasizes how working in La Conquista gave him the discipline for setting a routine in his daily life. As a writer, he tries to write from four to six hours a day, in addition to two hours of notetaking and reading. La Conquista also gave him more tangible help as a writer. For example, Indian-head pennies he found in the grocery store were the inspiration for the book The Mark Twain Murders (1982) and The Tom Sawyer Fires (1984). Because the people he met at the store were ordinary, his tales are usually about common folk rather than princes and princesses. Taking care of customers also shaped his keen observation of people.

In The Lost Garden, Yep also highlights the influence of Marie Lee, his maternal grandmother as the source of his understanding of Chinese culture. Yep gives an honest description of each of his family members. He concentrates on vivid incidents that made moments special. The book is, in a true sense, an autobiography, with no fictional pieces added. Yep pours out his true feelings about being an outsider in two cultures.

His early science fiction often dealt with strange, new lands, which represent his first reactions to white culture, both his fascination and his alienation. Many of Yep’s novels are based on his family background. His father, a kite maker, became Windrider in Dragonwings (1975), and his grandmother was the source of Paw-Paw in Child of the Owl (1977). He used some of his own childhood for the character of Craig Chin in Sea Glass (1979). Star Fisher (1991) is based on his maternal grandparents’ life in West Virginia. His historical novels are painstakingly researched. It took six years of research to find the bits and pieces of Chinese American history for Dragonwings.

Yep’s writing offers strong characterizations, the sensitive development of relationships, and accurate historical details about China and early California. The author’s Asian American perspective has made a significant contribution to children’s literature.

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