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?
“‘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