Tag Archives: Asian American

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee. August 8, 2017. Amulet Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419725487.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

She annihilates standardized tests and the bad guys.

Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.

But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tale and penchant for peaches.

Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking, Body humor

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
A tough, self-disciplined Chinese-American teen deals with the supernatural derailing of her college-prep activities in this speculative fiction novel that draws on the folklore of the Chinese Monkey King. In a dry, wickedly funny, first-person voice, overachiever Genie Lo easily brings readers into her corner as she puzzles with irritation over the behavior of gorgeous, goofy Quentin, newly arrived from China, who presents himself as a new student at her school and seems to think he knows her. As his story—and subsequently hers—reveals itself, it will surprise no one that the two have an extensive history together, though her actual relationship to him is a clever and fascinating detail. Genie gradually warms to him in a true-to-type romantic comedy that is filled with witty banter and valiant attempts by Genie to resist their attraction. Genie’s poignantly rendered immediate family history and incisive observations about her mostly Asian classmates and community balance the plentiful action in the battles she and Quentin undertake against a plethora of ferocious, eerily described yaoguai. Readers unfamiliar with the story of the Monkey King are easily brought up to speed early on, and the contemporary setting provides plenty of comedic juxtaposition. An exciting, engaging, and humorous debut that will appeal widely, this wraps up neatly enough but leaves an opening for further installments—here’s hoping. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Publishers Weekly Annex (July 3, 2017)
When Eugenia “Genie” Lo, a 16-year-old Chinese-American overachiever, discovers that she’s the reincarnation of the Monkey King’s legendary weapon, the Ruyi Jingu Bang, it throws her carefully ordered life into upheaval. It turns out that there has been a massive jailbreak from Diyu, the Chinese hell, and only Genie has the power to defeat the escaped demons. Charged by the goddess Guanyin to work with Quentin Sun, the annoying (yet alluring) teenage manifestation of the Monkey King, Genie has to master her newfound powers and return dozens of demons to Diyu, while still making time for her best friend and staying on top of homework-too bad Harvard doesn’t offer scholarships for fighting evil. In this dazzlingly fun debut, Yee mixes humor, Chinese folklore, and action to deliver a rousing, irreverent adventure packed with sharp-edged banter. Genie is resourceful and ferocious as she juggles her tyrannically strict mother’s demands while holding the fate of the world in her hands, and her fiery love-hate relationship with Quentin steals the show. Ages 13-up.

About the Author

F. C. Yee grew up in New Jersey and studied economics at Brown University. For his debut novel, he drew inspiration from the best and wisest people in his life. Outside of writing, he practices capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts. He currently calls the San Francisco Bay Area home.

His website is www.fcyee.com

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Leavers by Lisa Ko. May 2, 2017. Algonquin Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781616206888.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 870.

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
When Deming is 11, his Chinese American mother vanishes, leaving him with a surrogate family that, no longer able to provide for him, places him with foster parents, two academics who move Deming from New York City to upstate New York and subsequently adopt him. Flash-forward 10 years. Now 21, aimless Deming has flunked out of college, more interested in his music than his studies but always wondering about his mother. How could she have left him? Where is she? Then, after all these years, he learns she has returned to China, and, securing her phone number, he calls her. The action then shifts from his point of view to the first-person voice of his absent mother, telling her side of the story. Will son and mother be reunited? Though obviously skillfully written—it’s a winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction—the book can sometimes be difficult to read, thanks to its bleak subject matter, which, nevertheless, is reflective of today’s reality. Those who are interested in closely observed, character-driven fiction will want to leave room for The Leavers on their shelves.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
A Chinese woman who works in a New York nail salon doesn’t come home one day; her young son is raised by well-meaning strangers who cannot heal his broken heart.We meet Bronx fifth-grader Deming Guo on the day his mother disappears without a trace. From there, the story moves both forward and backward, intercutting between the narrative of his bumpy path to adulthood and his mother’s testimony. Gradually the picture comes together—Deming was conceived in China and born in America because his unmarried mother, Peilan, decided she would rather borrow the $50,000 to be smuggled to America than live out her life in her rural village. After her baby is born she tries to hide him underneath her sewing machine at work, but clearly she cannot care for him and work enough to repay the loan shark. She sends him back to China to be raised by her aging father. When Deming is 6, Yi Ba dies, and the boy rejoins his mother, who now has a boyfriend and lives with him; his sister, Vivian; and her son, Michael. After Peilan disappears, Deming is shuffled into foster care—his new parents are a pair of white academics upstate. Ten years later, it is Michael who tracks down a college dropout with a gambling problem named Daniel Wilkinson and sends a message that, if he is Deming Guo, he has information about his mother. The twists and turns continue, with the answers about Peilan’s disappearance withheld until the final pages. Daniel’s involvement in the alternative music scene is painted in unnecessary detail, but otherwise the specificity of the intertwined stories is the novel’s strength. Ko’s debut is the winner of the 2016 Pen/Bellwether Prize for Fiction for a novel that addresses issues of social justice, chosen by Barbara Kingsolver. This timely novel depicts the heart- and spirit-breaking difficulties faced by illegal immigrants with meticulous specificity.

About the Author

Lisa Ko’s fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, Apogee Journal, Narrative, Copper Nickel, the Asian Pacific American Journal, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center, among others. She was born in New York City, where she now lives.

Her website is lisa-ko.com

Teacher Resources

The Leavers Discussion Questons

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Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. May 2, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 400 p. ISBN: 9781419723735.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Noteworthy, by Riley Redgate (Seven Ways We Lie, 2016), features a girl who isn’t sure of anything at all. Jordan Sun is a junior at her performing-arts boarding school, but her low voice and Chinese features keep her from getting cast. Jordan’s on scholarship—her family struggles financially because of her disabled father’s medical bills—and her parents are overly invested in her success. So when she fails yet again to get cast, she considers other options. A spot has opened in the Sharpshooters, an elite all-male a cappella group. It’s college-application gold, so Jordan dresses up like a guy, borrows her cousin’s name, and auditions. Crazier still, she gets in. Jordan Sun, contralto, becomes Julian Zhang, tenor, living a double life as she’s drawn into the world of the Sharpshooters and into what it’s like to be a boy. In some ways, pretending helps her become more sure of her identity: she’s questioned her sexuality before, but as she spends more time as Julian, it becomes increasingly clear that she’s bisexual. Conversely, as she grows more comfortable acting like a guy, the surer she is that she’s not actually a transgender boy: “I knew it innately. The struggle to fit into some narrow window of femininity didn’t exclude me from the club.” It’s a smart critique of gender roles—male and female—in today’s society (a particularly notable scene is one in which Jordan, as Julian, is told in no uncertain terms to “man up” by a respected teacher), and it’s all delightfully wrapped up in a fun, compelling package of high-school rivalries, confusing romances, and a classic Shakespearean case of mistaken identity.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Redgate deftly harmonizes a lighthearted plot with an exploration of privilege, identity, and personal agency. Jordan Sun is a Chinese-American high school junior from a working-poor family who feels a bit out of place at her prestigious, arts-focused boarding school in upstate New York. Though the school’s diversity policy is bringing in more students from minority backgrounds, most of her classmates are still wealthy and white. After continued rejection for roles in the theater department, Jordan decides to try her hand at something new and joins one of the school’s legendary a cappella groups: a traditionally all-male one. To audition, Jordan adopts the male persona of Julian, and when Julian is accepted to fill a tenor spot with the group, Jordan must slip into the role of her life. As a first-person narrator, Jordan is often dryly sarcastic, but it is her lyrical prose that brings depth and empathy to a story that could otherwise be another needless riff on the cross-dressing trope. “It’s too simple to hate the people who have doorways where you have walls,” she reflects. Wearing Julian’s identity causes Jordan to question her assumptions regarding femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. Jordan ultimately shatters her own self-limiting expectations and in doing so encourages readers to do likewise. A heart song for all readers who have ever felt like strangers in their own skins. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Riley Redgate speaks exclusively in third person, so this works nicely. She loves horror films, apocalyptic thunderstorms, and the Atonement soundtrack. When writing author bios, she feels as if she is crafting some weirdly formal Tinder profile.

She plans someday to start a melodramatically epic rock band named Millennial Filth. Until then, she writes acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, also novels.

Her website is rileyredgate.com.

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Noteworthy on Amazon

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Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes. November 8, 2016. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481462525.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

From the author of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy comes a thought-provoking, action-packed page-turner based on the little-known history of the Japanese Americans who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.

Yuki Nakahara is an American.

But it’s the start of World War II, and America doesn’t see it that way. Like many other Japanese Americans, Yuki and his family have been forced into an internment camp in the Utah desert. But Yuki isn’t willing to sit back and accept this injustice—it’s his country too, and he’s going to prove it by enlisting in the army to fight for the Allies.

When Yuki and his friend Shig ship out, they aren’t prepared for the experiences they’ll encounter as members of the “Four-Four-Two,” a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese-American soldiers. Before Yuki returns home—if he returns home—he’ll come face to face with persistent prejudices, grueling combat he never imagined, and friendships deeper than he knew possible.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. In December 1941, FBI agents arrest Yuki Nakahara’s father without cause. By 1943, 18-year-old Yuki and his family have been “relocated” from California to an internment camp in Utah. Despite this, Yuki enlists in the U.S. Army with his best friend, Shig, and they join the Second Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (which comprises only Japanese Americans, as whites refuse to fight alongside them). Yuki initially boasts about becoming a war hero, but is sobered as he sees friends killed by German artillery. After months of relentless battle, Yuki and Shig’s comrades-in-arms suffer countless casualties and gain a reputation as “the Purple Heart Battalion.” Finally, because generals view the nisei soldiers as expendable, Yuki’s battalion is sent on an almost impossible mission to rescue white American soldiers surrounded by German forces. Hughes’ writing effectively evokes the horrors of war and the internal conflict of young men fighting for a country that has treated them unjustly. The challenges of Yuki’s reentry into the States are also well conveyed: the guilt of survival, the difficulty of communicating the war experience to civilians, and the continued widespread racism. Though a couple of conversations seem stilted for the sake of exposition, in general the dialogue reads naturally (even the pidgin English spoken by Hawaiian soldiers is decent). This is historical fiction at its finest—immersive and inspirational.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2016)
The book’s title refers to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed entirely of Issei and Nisei (first-generation Japanese immigrants and their children, respectively) who served in WWII, and which earned the name Purple Heart Battalion because so many of its soldiers were either wounded or killed in battle. In December 1941, Hughes’s protagonist, Berkeley high-schooler Yuki Nakahara, watches helplessly as FBI agents arrest his father as a spy and unceremoniously haul him away. Less than six months later, Yuki and his siblings, all American citizens, are deported with their mother to the Topaz internment camp in Utah. Yet Yuki decides to join the army because he believes it’s the only way he’ll “ever be respected in this country.” Readers follow him through basic training; the agonies of battle, loss, and injury; and his return home. Events, characters, and dialogue create an indelible sense of time and place. When Yuki’s mother protests her husband’s arrest, an FBI agent spits out: “That’s enough, lady. Your husband’s a sneaky little slant-eyed Jap. That’s all we need to know.” A Denver barber refuses to “cut Jap hair” even though Yuki is wearing his Silver Star and Purple Heart. Yuki’s wish to put it all behind him realistically characterizes so many of “the greatest generation”; his father’s lack of physical affection is a cultural marker; and the sweet, naive romance with the girl back home reflects the times. A predictable story arc lessens the novel’s tension; still, Yuki emerges as a true hero during a dark period of American history. betty carter

About the Author

Dean Hughes is the author of more than eighty books for young readers, including the popular sports series Angel Park All-Stars, the Scrappers series, the Nutty series, the widely acclaimed companion novels Family Pose and Team Picture, and Search and Destroy. Soldier Boys was selected for the 2001 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list. Dean Hughes and his wife, Kathleen, have three children and six grandchildren. They live in Midway, Utah.

His website is www.deanhughes.net.

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Watched by Marina Budhos

Watched by Marina Budhos. September 13, 2016. Wendy Lamb Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780553534191.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Marina Budhos’s extraordinary and timely novel examines what it’s like to grow up under surveillance, something many Americans experience and most Muslim Americans know.

Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.

Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero—a protector—like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 6-9. Naeem Rahman can’t stop moving. After emigrating from Bangladesh to New York at age 11, he, as a high-school senior, spends his days cutting class and moving through the streets of Queens, hoping to avoid the watchful eyes of his father, stepmother, and half brother; his hordes of nosy neighbors; and especially the police and cameras that cover his Muslim neighborhood. When his friend Ibrahim tricks him into shoplifting, two NYPD officers leave Naeem with a choice. Either go to jail or become exactly what he has always hated—a spy, an informant, a watcher—thereby betraying his family, friends, and community. Budhos, author of two other novels that focus on immigrant teens (Ask Me No Questions, 2006, and Tell Us We’re Home, 2010), presents another effective coming-of-age novel, one that not only confronts without reservation the notion of Islamaphobia and issues of teenage identity but also tackles the grittier aspects of life in this post-9/11 era. What does it mean to belong to a family? a community? a country?

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
Naeem, a teenager living in an immigrant neighborhood in Queens, finds his grip on life slipping.With his performance in school deteriorating, he feels unable to deal with the disappointment of his hardworking and hopeful Bangladeshi parents–and then there are the inquisitive eyes and mouths of their neighbors. Hoping to avoid them, Naeem keeps himself constantly on the move. But he is always aware that he is always being watched, by cops and by cameras placed all around. He’s taken small risks, but close calls have not been enough to deter him, until one day his past mistakes catch up with him and he has to make a choice between paying dearly or taking a deal the cops offer him: to become a watcher and help them spy on the people in his neighborhood. Having previously written about immigrant teens in Tell Us We’re Home (2010) and Ask Me No Questions (2006), Budhos again tackles identity and belonging or lack thereof, as well as Islamophobia and growing up under surveillance. It’s a slow story, appropriately filled with uncertainty. Action takes second place to a deeper message, and room is left for readers to speculate on the fates of certain characters. While the absence of certainty may frustrate some readers, it also speaks to the underlying takeaway: you can never be sure what others’ intentions are, even if you have made it your job to study them. (Thriller. 12-18)

About the Author

Marina Budhos is an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction.

She has published the novels, Watched (Random House/Wendy Lam Books, 2016), Ask Me No Questions (Simon & Schuster, 2006), an ALA Notable and winner of the first James Cook Teen Book Award, The Professor of Light (Putnam, 1999), House of Waiting (Global City Press, 1995) and a nonfiction book, Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers (Henry Holt, 1999). She and her husband Marc Aronson coauthored the acclaimed Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom & Science (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin, 2010). Their latest joint endeavor, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro & The Invention of Modern Photojournalism will be published in 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.

Her short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The Daily Beast, Quartz, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, The Nation, Dissent, Marie Claire, Redbook, Travel & Leisure, Ms., Los Angeles Times, and in numerous anthologies.

Ms. Budhos has received an emma (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and a Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has been a Fulbright Scholar to India, given talks throughout the country and abroad, and is currently on the faculty of the English Department at William Paterson University.

Her website is www.marinabudhos.com.

Teacher Resources

Interview with Marina Budhos via NBCNews

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Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood. October 18, 2016. Poppy, 320 p. ISBN: 9780316242127.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

For Vân Ước, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn’t even know she’s alive? Pointless.

So Vân Ước tries to stick to her reality—keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother’s PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably (possibly magically) comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Ước can’t help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Book Launch

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Vân Ước, daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is a first-generation Australian, and apart from chafing under intense academic pressures and the expectations of her parents, she’s nursing a crush on the golden boy of her grade, Billy Gardiner. When a wish that Billy “found her . . . fascinating” impossibly comes true, the popular, athletic Billy can’t leave her alone. At first, she’s sure it’s a trick, especially when in-crowd mean girls start spreading cruel rumors about her. Soon, there’s no denying his interest, but is his love for real or is it just the wish? Though Wood’s description of the immigrant experience often feels fairly paint-by-numbers and the romance comes across a bit half-baked, Wood is perhaps best at capturing the rich, sometimes contradictory teenage emotional landscape, and that’s what’s most powerful here. Brainy, mostly self-assured Vân Ước waffles between confidence, desire, insecurity, guilt, and loyalty, and Wood coolly unspools it all. Fans of her earlier novels will be pleased to see some familiar faces, and others might find solidarity in Vân Ước’s moving coming-of-age.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2016)
A Vietnamese-Australian teen grapples with her family expectations.Sixteen-year-old Vân Uoc, a child of Vietnamese refugees, is the perfect daughter and student. As a scholarship student in private school, she is under immense pressure to earn straight A’s, play the oboe, and participate in her school’s community life. During a creative-writing master class, she makes an offhanded wish that Billy, a popular white boy, would like her. Her wish becomes a reality when he suddenly pays attention to her. Although Vân Uoc is initially suspicious of Billy’s wish-fueled intentions, she allows herself to date him—but she’ll never know for sure. Wood’s attempt to walk in a Vietnamese-Aussie teen’s shoes feels removed, as if she’s translating. Vân Uoc’s character comes across as simultaneously self-loathing and indifferent even when she is supposed to be angry or sad. Missing cultural nuances, such as her failure to call an adult the respectful Ông or Bà, will stand out for Asian-American readers. Some characters, such as privileged Billy and “lesbian-in-waiting” best friend Jess, seem to exist merely as elements on a hidden diversity checklist. The text’s inconsistent italicization of Vietnamese words is distracting; many foods are not italicized, yet terms for father, mother, and daughter are. Vân Uoc’s struggle to reconcile her parents’ wishes and her passion for art is a tired conflict, especially for Asian characters. Misguided. (Fiction. 13-17)

About the Author

Fiona Wood is the author of young adult novels, Six Impossible Things, Wildlife, and Cloudwish. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a television scriptwriter for twelve years, writing everything from soap, and one-hour adult drama, to children’s drama. Prior to this she dropped out of law and completed an arts degree, both at Melbourne University, worked in marketing and in arts management, did some freelance journalism, and studied screenwriting at RMIT. She has served as a judge for the AWGIE Awards (Australian Writers’ Guild) and is an ambassador for The Stella Prize Schools Program. She has two YA children, and lives in Melbourne with her husband.

Her website is www.fionawood.com.

Around the Web

Cloudwish on Amazon

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Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung. September 6, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Reader, 352 p. ISBN: 9780399550492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

Gilmore Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat in this witty novel about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself.

Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.

Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.

As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Bullying

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. This Australian author’s beautifully written YA debut follows a lower-middle-class Chinese Australian teen who wins a prestigious scholarship to an exclusive all-girls school and struggles to find herself among the snobby mean girls. In a letter to Linh, the constant friend she’s left behind, 15-year-old Lucy recounts her first year as an “Equal Access” scholarship student at Laurinda Ladies’ College. Once fearlessly outspoken and full of fun, Lucy has become withdrawn and unsure of herself. A small group of rich, spoiled, and casually racist girls, known as the Cabinet, dominates her class and play horrible pranks on students and teachers with impunity. With the help of a male teacher and a popular boy from a nearby private boys school who’s not ashamed of being lower-middle class, Lucy learns to stand up for herself and reject the Cabinet. Lucy’s biting comments about Laurinda and her struggle to reconcile her school and home life in the dilapidated and rundown town of Stanley effectively ring true as she realizes her family’s immigrant life there is precious. The reveal of the truth of her relationship with Linh is seamlessly incorporated into the narrative. Lucy’s struggle to find her place and sense of self will have a wide appeal for teen readers and is a welcome addition to the prep-school canon.

School Library Journal (September 1, 2016)
Gr 8 Up-Life is not easy for Lucy Lam. Her immigrant mother and father work seemingly never-ending hours to make life bearable for her and her young brother in suburban Stanley, Australia. Lucy can’t help but compare herself to her more outgoing friends, especially Linh, who always seems to come out on top with her easy retorts and spunky attitude. When she and her classmates learn of a contest for a full ride scholarship to the most prestigious private school in the area, all the girls try out. To everyone’s surprise, Lucy gets the spot and quickly feels the pressure to assimilate to the glamorous lifestyle of the school. At first, leaving her old life seems like the perfect plan, and she soon loses touch with everyone, including Linh. Will Lucy realize the importance of her past and stay true to herself? Pung revitalizes the popular “mean girls against the new girl” trope in a surprising new way by revealing the difficulty in distinguishing between good and bad in this engaging novel. She deftly creates a story that immerses readers and makes this world relatable. Young adults will root for quirky Lucy and will be checked by a big twist at the end. VERDICT This daring work with an authentic protagonist teaches important lessons about being yourself while navigating through life. A strong purchase that will captivate teens and adults alike.-DeHanza Kwong, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC

About the Author

Alice Pung is an Australian author whose award-winning books span the genres of memoir, non-fiction, anthology, young adult and children’s fiction. Alice’s first book Unpolished Gem won the 2007 Australian Book Industry Award for Newcomer of the Year. Her second book, Her Father’s Daughter, won the 2011 Western Australia Premier’s Literary Award, and her first novel, Laurinda won the 2016 Ethel Turner Prize. Laurinda is published in the United States as Lucy and Linh, and has been a Kirkus-starred book.

Her website is www.alicepung.com.

Teacher Resources

Lucy and Linh (Laurinda) Teaching Notes

Around the Web

Lucy and Linh on Amazon

Lucy and Linh on JLG

Lucy and Linh on Goodreads

 

Uprooted by Albert Marrin

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin. October 25, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9780553509366.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

On the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor comes a harrowing and enlightening look at the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II— from National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin

Just seventy-five years ago, the American government did something that most would consider unthinkable today: it rounded up over 100,000 of its own citizens based on nothing more than their ancestry and, suspicious of their loyalty, kept them in concentration camps for the better part of four years.

How could this have happened? Uprooted takes a close look at the history of racism in America and carefully follows the treacherous path that led one of our nation’s most beloved presidents to make this decision. Meanwhile, it also illuminates the history of Japan and its own struggles with racism and xenophobia, which led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, ultimately tying the two countries together.

Today, America is still filled with racial tension, and personal liberty in wartime is as relevant a topic as ever. Moving and impactful, National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin’s sobering exploration of this monumental injustice shines as bright a light on current events as it does on the past

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts; Harsh reality of prisoner treatment

 

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
Marrin (FDR and the American Crisis, rev. 1/15) wanders far afield from the book’s subtitle in order to place his subject in a comprehensively broad context; readers wanting a narrower focus may opt for Imprisoned by Martin Sandler (rev. 7/13). Marrin’s narrative opens briefly with a prologue set on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but then he backtracks for several chapters, delivering a crash course in Japanese history with a special focus on racism. By the late nineteenth century, Japanese Americans had arrived in the United States, a country with its own troubled legacy. Despite the hard work and industry of the first several generations, racial problems persisted well into the twentieth century, ultimately paving the way for Executive Order 9066 and the forcible relocation and internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Despite this ignominious treatment, Japanese American soldiers distinguished themselves in both the Pacific and European theaters of war. Though the internment camps closed at the end of the war, hastened by a Supreme Court ruling, it was years before the internees received an official apology, reparations, and memorials. A final chapter draws a connection to the treatment of Muslim Americans in the aftermath of twenty-first-century terrorist attacks and discusses the uneasy tension between liberty and security during wartime. Generous quotations and photographs are integrated throughout the text, providing the immediacy that comes with primary sources. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. Jonathan Hunt

Publishers Weekly (September 5, 2016)
With masterful command of his subject and a clear, conversational style, Marrin (FDR and the American Crisis) lays bare the suffering inflicted upon Japanese Americans by the U.S. during WWII. Marrin delves into cultural, political, and economic strains leading up to Pearl Harbor, documenting extensive racist beliefs on both sides of the Pacific. Perceived as unacceptable security risks after the attack, Japanese immigrants living on the West Coast (issei) and their children (nisei), U.S. citizens by birth, were sent to desolate relocation centers. Only nisei trained by the military as linguists or who served in two segregated Army units in Europe were spared the humiliation of prisonlike confinement. Marrin admirably balances the heroism and loyalty of both groups with the hostile reception they received after the war and the legal battles of the few nisei who resisted; their convictions were only overturned in the 1980s. A prologue and final chapter questioning whether national security can justify the limiting of individual liberties, during wartime or as a response to terrorism, bookend this engrossing and hopeful account. Archival photos and artwork, extensive source notes, and reading suggestions are included. Ages 12-up.

About the Author

Albert Marrin is an award winning author of over 40 books for young adults and young readers and four books of scholarship. These writings were motivated by the fact that as a teacher, first in a junior high school in New York City for nine years and then as professor of history and chairman of the history department at Yeshiva University until he retired to become a full time writer, his paramount interest has always been to make history come alive and accessible for young people.

Winner of the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal for his work, which was presented at the White House, was given “for opening young minds to the glorious pageant of history. His books have made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail and energy for a new generation.”

His website is www.albertmarrin.com.

Teacher Resources

Japanese Internment Camps: A Day in the Life Lesson Plan

Japanese Internment Lesson Plan

Japanese-American Internment and the US Constitution Lesson Plan

Around the Web

Uprooted on Amazon

Uprooted on JLG

Uprooted on Goodreads