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‘Enhanced,’ A Futuristic YA Novel Set in Asia By Candace Kade, Hits Plenty Of TCK Notes

(Book Cover Photo courtesy of Candace Kade)

In a new novel by Candace Kade, it’s 2123 and everyone who can afford them has gene enhancements in the Asian Federation. Protagonist Lee Urban doesn’t have any enhancements but is adopted into the high society of New Beijing, where everyone boasts a genetic nip or tuck.

This is the storyline from the newly released “Enhanced” by Young Adult author Candace Kade. The book touches on futurism and tech, standard fare in many compelling sci-fi stories.

The novel also touches on identity and belonging, all familiar themes for Kade, who grew up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK). Kade’s parents moved from Ohio, U.S.A. to Changsha, the capital of the Hunan Province of China when she was 4 years old, and she spent her formative years between parts of China and the U.S. Her family eventually settled down in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province of China.

For “Enhanced,” Kade pulled from her experiences shuttling between China and the United States.

'Enhanced' by Candace Kade
(Book cover photo courtesy of Candace Kade)

KADE ON THE BACKSTORY TO THE ‘ENHANCED’ STORY

Culturs asked Kade to offer more details about how she built the world of “Enhanced” in a Q&A. She provided these emailed responses:

How does the TCK experience flavor the world you created for your book?

Being a TCK has impacted the world of “Enhanced” in two ways. First, the main character, Lee Urban, wrestles with finding home, identity and belonging.

In “Enhanced,” the Asian Federation is divided sharply by those who have genetic enhancements, or the Enhanced, and those without, called Naturals.

Urban is a Natural by birth but is adopted into the high society of the Enhanced. She must pretend to be Enhanced, for the safety of her family, but feels like a constant fraud. However, among the Naturals, she also feels out of place. She’s never spent time living with them and doesn’t understand their way of life.

Urban’s struggle was very much my own as a TCK.

Growing up in China, I never quite felt like I belonged. Even though I spoke the language, went to the local Chinese school, wore the same uniform, celebrated the same holidays, and lived similarly to a Chinese person, I always felt like I was never “Asian enough.” Because of my hair and skin color, I always stuck out.

When I returned to the U.S. for university, I also didn’t feel like I belonged. Even though I looked like I could be American, and technically I was born there, I had spent so little of my life there. It felt like a foreign country.

Candace Kade (Photo courtesy Candace Kade)
Author Candace Kade (Photo courtesy of Candace Kade)

What I’ve learned over the years is that as a TCK I have the unique ability to bridge cultures.

I wanted to write a book both Americans and Chinese alike could relate to and love. The feedback I’ve received so far is that my Asian readers find “Enhanced” very accurate and love the world, and that my Western readers have learned a lot about Chinese culture. I love that I get to help build cultural understanding through my unique upbringing.

Why do you think the TCK experience is important to depict in the sci-fi genre?

I wanted to weave a story of intrigue, action and mystery while also showing a hero struggling with her background. But I didn’t want that TCK struggle to be the primary focal point of the story. As someone from two cultures, my life is not simply about my struggle to fit in. I wanted to show a story where the story was about a TCK living a grand adventure that was not solely about finding identity and belonging but those things complemented the story of adventure. That story, I believed, was best told against the backdrop of sci-fi.

I [also] love getting to showcase my TCK experience in the sci-fi genre because I’ve never seen it done. Growing up, all the stories I read were about people from monolithic cultures. It was very difficult for me to find stories about people like me, who belonged to or came from more than one culture.

As an adult, I began to find more stories written by multicultural authors, and I loved it! But what I still hadn’t found were tales of grand adventures like “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” or “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with people like me in them.

Speculative fiction stories with multicultural characters still seemed to be missing and I wanted to fill that gap. I set out to write a story in a futuristic world with a character who struggled like I did growing up but who also found hope, home and happiness along the way.

Based on the Amazon description, you talk about DNA and artificial intelligence in your book — big subjects everywhere right now. What’s your underlying motivation for using DNA manipulation and AI as part of your story?

AI and DNA manipulation are technologies that are here to stay. They are neither good nor evil but have great potential for both. My hope is that readers will pay more attention to these technologies and help to create and pass regulations that will enable AI and DNA editing to be used for noble purposes. 

With CRISPR gene editing technology, scientists and researchers are able to replace people’s DNA. “Enhanced” is taking that concept and extrapolating it into the future. It’s asking the question, “What will our world look like if future generations of parents can select the DNA they want for the children?”

CRISPR is currently mostly used for treating cancer and sickle cell anemia patients. However, more researchers are beginning to push the boundaries of science to see if we can alter human’s DNA in vitro. That’s where I think we enter a slippery slope that can lead to the “designer babies” depicted in “Enhanced.”

In my story, I wanted to acknowledge these trends but not in the classic doomsday sort of way. I wanted to show how both of these technologies were being used for both good and evil. I hope I’ve given our current society a glimpse of what could be if we’re not paying close attention to what’s going on around us.

MORE INFO ABOUT ‘ENHANCED’

“Enhanced” is book one in The Hybrid Series and includes a discussion guide for TCKs.

You can find it on Amazon here.

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