Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

The third in the Pacy Lin series, this time Pacy's family is going to Taiwan for her grandmother's 60th birthday party. While Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat dealt with friendship and finding out who she wants to be. This time Pacy must figure out what she is - when she's at home in America she doesn't feel like she fits in because she looks Taiwanese and when she's in Taiwan she's discovering that her insides are all American. Where's the balance? Where does she belong? On top of these racial issues, she must also deal with night markets, chicken feet, and competition in art class.

I got this book from the lovely people at Little, Brown and Co. for a book group I do at my elementary schools. I hadn't read any of Grace Lin's books, but I've since listened to The Year of the Dog and finished Dumpling Days. They're pretty fantastic: funny, nuanced, and a lot more depth in themes than what you would expect in a middle grade book.

I have to admit that I might have a deeper resonance to the themes in this book than most, considering the fact that I'm Korean American and was raised in the Midwest. I look Asian on the outside but my cultural connection is to my white parents, I've been to Korea and I felt super American. Where do you fit in? How do you deal with the subtle racism that you meet with every day? There were parts that made me want to cry because they were true representations of my experience.

I really enjoyed this book, Grace Lin does a really eloquent job of putting together the traditional themes of a middle grade book - acceptance, growing up, finding your special abilities, and family - with issues of race and cultural confusion. She never gets preachy, she laces everything with humor and levity, it's never over anyone's head and still makes an impact.

Bonus: as I finished the book I craved dumplings like never before. Does anyone know where I can get soup dumplings? Cha siu bao? Because seriously, they sound like a miracle.

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