YEM Author Interview: Tracy Badua chats about how she incorporated Filipino culture into her book “The Takeout”

Tracy Badua is the author of The Takeout. The Takeout follows sixteen year old Perla, who is the youngest graduating senior of the hypercompetitive Monte Verde High. The novel explores self-discovery and embracing imperfections. YEM was able to speak with Tracy about bringing representation to the Filipino community, if any part of The Takeout inspired by her life, and what her writing process looks like.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you know you first wanted to be an author?

Tracy Badua: I knew early on that I wanted to do something with storytelling. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I even tried my hand at writing a few stories back then (mostly about my stuffed animals doing everyday things like getting haircuts). I think my grandmother has a few of those books still, keeping them for either sentimental or blackmailing value.

YEM: How would you describe The Takeout?

Tracy: It’s a story about a family-owned food truck going up against big celebrity chefs who have opened a competing restaurant featuring the same exact Filipino-Indian fusion recipes. At its heart, it’s really about a girl trying to figure out the truest version of herself, despite her fears that she isn’t enough and that others might not accept her.

YEM: Did you know that you wanted to incorporate Filipino culture even before you started writing your book?

Tracy: Yes! My previous middle grade and young adult books feature Filipino folklore or cultural concepts, and I wanted to continue exploring those in The Takeout.

YEM: What does it mean to you to be able to bring representation to the Filipino community?

Tracy: I try to keep my stories true to my experience, which I know isn’t universal among Filipinos and Filipino Americans by any means, and it’s always lovely and surprising to have readers reach out and let me know just how much they connected with my characters. It’s a nice reminder of the larger ties that bind our community together.

YEM: With Filipino food such a big part of your book, was that something that you were really familiar with growing up?

Tracy: Yes, though to my undying shame, I’m a terrible cook when it comes to Filipino food. I blame my parents and my brother, all of whom are fantastic in the kitchen and therefore never gave me a reason to polish my own skills.

YEM: Is any part of The Takeout inspired by your life?

Tracy: A lot of my books draw from tidbits of my real life! In the Takeout, Mila is surprised by the large basket of vegetable lumpia served up by her father. She realizes her father never cooks in small batches because he’s used to feeding a group, which is a trait shared by many in my own family. We’re all about big dishes made for sharing at family parties.

YEM: What do you hope your readers take away from your book?

Tracy: The path to carving out who you are is different for everyone, and at every stage, you are enough.

YEM: Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to be an author?

Tracy: Good critique partners are essential. I consider myself so lucky to have wonderful writer friends who take the time to provide thoughtful feedback and let me vent or ask questions about the publishing process. I began my publishing journey googling bad writing and querying advice and believing I was doing splendidly (reader, I was not). It was only when I teamed up with more experienced, agented or published authors that my own writing and knowledge of the industry matured.

YEM: What does your writing process look like?

Tracy: I’m a plotter with a sizeable craft book library and love of structure. I always outline my ideas to get a broad sense of the characters and their journeys before I even create a new document to start writing.

YEM: What is your favorite part of writing for a young adult audience?

Tracy: While not every story necessarily has to have a neat, happy ending, I feel like there’s a tricky but fun balance of hope-for-the-best optimism and everything’s-terrible realism when writing for young adults.

YEM: What is your favorite quote or line from your book?

Tracy: Presented with zero context whatsoever: “I can’t believe I just gave a rat a pep talk.”

YEM: What do you plan to do next with writing?

Tracy: After The Takeout comes out in May, I have another young adult, We’re Never Getting Home, coming out in Winter 2024. It’s about two ex-best friends who begrudgingly end up sharing a ride to an outdoor music festival, only to have their driver lose his keys while crowdsurfing. 

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