The child of Hungarian immigrants, I was raised in inner city Cincinnati, Ohio in an extended family with three generations under one roof. We spoke Hungarian and English at home. Our neighborhood was predominantly African-American, and I became aware of civil rights issues as a young child.
After graduating with a BA in English from Cornell University, I went to Switzerland, where I learned French, taught English, and apprenticed to a bookbinder. Upon my return, I went back to Cornell to study Chinese and got an MS in linguistics. Now I teach English as a Second Language at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and write books for children and young adults. I also study Spanish and travelled to Chile and Mexico.
I am married to Jim Cheng and we have three children, Nicholas, Jane, and Ann who are now 29, 27, and 24.