ARC Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

35297380American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

“‘Sometimes I’m so proud to be Chinese, and other times I resent it so much. The obligations. Duty to family. Xiàoshùn.’”

And with that line, American Panda understood me in a way no book has before.

I’m making all my Chinese-American friends (both who read and who don’t) to preorder this book because it is exceptional. Although we only see the experience of a Chinese-American through the lense of one teenage girl, I believe there is something – whether it is stinky tofu, matchmaking, or dreams of being a doctor – that a Chinese-American teen can relate to in Mei’s story. American Panda is superbly written, with hilarious dialogue and equally witty inner monologues of Mei, a seventeen-year old who is college-bound to MIT. She’s intelligent and checks off all the boxes for Obedient Taiwanese Teen™. She’s on the premed track and meets her parents once a week (if not more) at Chow Chow, a restaurant they frequently eat at. She’s shy. She’s the child that her parents are piling their dreams on after they disowned her brother. But at this turn of her life, Mei is experiencing an internal conflict that continues to grow as she meets new people and experiences new things in college. Continue reading

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Book Review: Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim + Fan Art

31359509Freedom Swimmer
Author: Wai Chim
Release Date: September 1, 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis:
Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’, and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields…When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren’t sure what to make of the new arrivals. They’re not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn’t be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams…But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.

One-Way-Or-An-Author-Review

This historical fiction novel made me tear up with its words and characters. Freedom Swimmer transports readers back to 1900’s Communist China under the direction of Mao Zedong, following two young boys as they struggle to balance between the patriotism of their countrymen and the freedom they seek. This particular story also holds a special place in my heart because my own parents and grandparents experienced the Cultural Revolution and the effects it had on the country throughout the century. Freedom Swimmer is also based on a true story, as Chee’s father was a freedom swimmer himself. This #ownvoices novel of Chinese teens will capture the hearts of readers as their respective backgrounds and experiences accumulate in the search for freedom and escape from the propaganda that dominates their life.

“A few year ago, the entire village was talking about ‘The Great Leap Forward’ delivering glory to China. Now, the Cadre had a new term for it: the lack of food, the hunger, the starving and finally the dying.”

Continue reading