Pippa talks with PW about basketball, balancing schoolwork with the game, and adjusting to a new social environment.

A basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private! You must feel proud. What is it about the game that keeps you coming back to the court?

Can I say “everything”? Honestly, I don’t know where to start. I like the competition, being part of a team, and especially that nervous-but-excited feeling I get whenever I put on my game-day jersey. Whenever I’m in a bad mood, I know that all I have to do is grab my basketball, and things will be okay.

Enrolling in a new school is always a big transition. How’s it going?

When I first transferred to Lakeview,I was so excited! I didn’t know how hard it would be to handle basketball practice, tutoring, old friends, working at my sister’s laundromat, and my new classes—turns out, algebra sucks no matter where you go. It also didn’t help that I was sort of hiding the fact that I used to go to Lakeview’s rival school. But after a bit of a learning curve, I’m finally starting to feel like I belong here.

It can be easy to lose touch with old friends when you change schools. Any suggestions for keeping up with those friendships?

I know it sounds bad, but when I first switched schools, I met so many new people that I started to forget about one of my best friends, Buddy. By the time I realized that I’d messed up, it was almost too late to save our friendship. But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that there’s never a wrong time for an apology.

What do you think is the coolest thing about you?

Okay, so this might sound weird, but when I learned I was going to Lakeview, I wanted to make a good first impression so badly that I followed these things called “The Rules of Cool” from a magazine. The advice kind of helped, a bit, sort of—okay, not really. But even if I might not meet everyone’s definition of “cool,” I can slam anyone—even an eighth grader—on the basketball court.

What’s your favorite food?

Maybe walnut cakes filled with red bean paste. My older sister used to have to hide them from me; that’s how good they are. I like food so much that my favorite holiday is probably Chuseok, which is kind of like Korean Thanksgiving. I eat my weight in japchae!

What’s one thing about yourself that you once wanted to change but now think is just right?

When I first started at Lakeview, I felt embarrassed that my family doesn’t make as much money as the other kids’ families. I even hid the fact that I work at my older sister’s laundromat and that I’m attending Lakeview on a scholarship. It took a couple of months for me to realize that anyone who cares about that stuff isn’t worth worrying about.

Who is the most important person in your life?

Probably my brother-in-law, Jung-Hwa. My mom lives in Korea, so my older sister and Jung-Hwa raised me, and even though I know both of them care about me, my sister has a weird way of showing it. But Jung-Hwa always seems to know when I’m sad; whether he’s giving me advice or snack money, I can always count on him to make me feel better.

Finally, what makes you feel most at home?

Sometimes, when I’m super tired from classes and basketball practice, I’ll head into my apartment, smell Jung-Hwa cooking something spicy and delicious on the stovetop, and see my older sister sitting at the table doing paperwork. It 100% feels like home.

Pippa Park Raises Her Game
HC ISBN: 978-1944020-26-2

Debut author Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Tex. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. She currently lives in New York City, and yes—she used to play basketball as a middle grader!