University of Southern California

USC Alumni Association

Lifelong and Worldwide

Lisa Yee '81

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Lisa Yee graduated from USC with a dual degree in English and humanities in 1981. She had planned on going to law school, but changed her mind at the last minute. After various careers, including stints as a copywriter, jingle writer, journalist and television writer, Lisa penned her first book for kids.

Lisa's 2003 debut novel, Millicent Min, Girl Genius, won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award. Today, she is a Thurber House Children's Writer-in-Residence with more than 1.5 million books in print. Her other titles include Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, So Totally Emily Ebers and the young adult novel, Absolutely Maybe, which takes place in part at USC. In addition to Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally) and Bobby the Brave (Sometimes) , a series about a 4th grader, Lisa has also written the popular American Girl Kanani books and Good Luck, Ivy. Her latest novel, Warp Speed, is about a Star Trek geek who gets beaten up every day at school.

Her books have been named a NPR Best Summer Read,a Sports Illustrated Hot Summer Read, a USA Today Critics' Top Pick, a American Library Association Notable Book and more. For more information, visit Lisa online.

Five "Must Reads"


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Look Homeward, Angel
by Thomas Wolfe

I picked up Look Homeward, Angel after I graduated from USC. I had just gotten my first job as a copywriter, and began the novel as I was flying to North Carolina to shoot a commercial. Coincidentally, Wolfe's novel begins in the Tarheel State. I don't remember much about the commercial, but I do remember Wolfe's characters, Eugene Gant and his family. Though the Gants are poor, Wolfe's prose is rich. Their struggles within the confines of their small town were mesmerizing, and on the flight home, I was sorry that I had reached the last page. To this day, it's not so much the details that I keep close to heart, but the impression the book left on me. It was like falling in love.


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Ramona the Pest
by Beverly Cleary

As an author of novels for young people, I bow to Beverly Cleary. Her books are funny, honest and heartfelt. Even though Cleary wrote about white families, and I grew up in a Chinese American one, her stories spoke to me when I was a kid -- they still do. And there has never been a truer book about starting school than Ramona the Pest. Ramona Quimby is messy, impatient and means well, yet constantly finds herself in trouble. In these pages, there are no wars, no vampires and no deaths. That Cleary managed to write a page-turner about ordinary life, ordinary kids and ordinary families is extraordinary.


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A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
by Flannery O'Connor

At USC I wrote a paper about Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, comparing and contrasting the book and John Huston's film adaptation. I came to the conclusion that she was a genius. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories is further proof of this. The Southern Gothic story collection is rife with tragic foreboding and morbidly satisfying dark humor. For example, in the title story, the grandmother character is so annoying you just want to kill her. Then she meets the Misfit, an escaped murder, and well...By the way, when visiting Savannah, Georgia, I came across O'Connor's childhood home, which is now a museum. It was closed, but there was a phone number for emergencies. I called, because I had to see the house, and they let me in.


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Modern Baptists
by James Wilcox

No one does Louisiana-style charmingly quirky dysfunction like James Wilcox. His odd, eccentric yet strangely endearing characters are like nightmare relatives -- you love them, but can't believe what they just said. In Modern Baptists, when two diametrically opposed brothers are cast together, it's time to sit back and enjoy the chaos. Add mistaken identities, meltdowns and a bevy of busybodies and you have a fast-paced farce that will leave you breathless. What I don't understand is why everyone hasn't read James Wilcox by now.


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The House at Pooh Corner
by A. A. Milne

Santa Claus gave me my first  Winnie-the-Pooh when I was seven, and I have been a fan of the bear and his books ever since. I even have one of the largest collections of Winnie-the-Pooh memorabilia in America; it resides in a Canadian museum.In The House at Pooh Corner, which follow Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore gets a tail, Tigger is (almost) unbounced, and dear Piglet nearly comes face to face with a Heffalump. The characters are key here, and the stories that unfold are slightly subversive, endlessly entertaining and classic. On the last page, where they are saying goodbye, perhaps forever, Pooh promises Christopher Robin that he will never forget him. I know I will never forget Winnie-the-Pooh.