Sunday, March 4, 2012
Dumpling Days, by Grace Lin- Review
Pacy is back! The beloved heroine of The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat has returned in a brand new story. This summer, Pacy's family is going to Taiwan for an entire month to visit family and prepare for their grandmother's 60th birthday celebration. Pacy's parents have signed her up for a Chinese painting class, and at first she's excited. This is a new way to explore her art talent! But everything about the trip is harder than she thought it would be--she looks like everyone else but can't speak the language, she has trouble following the art teacher's instructions, and it's difficult to make friends in her class. At least the dumplings are delicious...
As the month passes by, Pacy eats chicken feet (by accident!), gets blessed by a fortune teller, searches for her true identity, and grows closer to those who matter most.
I haven't had the pleasure of reading Pacy's other two stories, but after this one I'll be keeping my eye out. A fun story with great commentary on being first generation, out of place in both your birth place and the country of your families origin. I was impressed by how Lin dealt with difficult issues to explain, such as why Pacy's parents left Taiwan, and why Pacy's heritage is still important even though she was born American.
I'm first generation on my fathers side of the family, and much farther removed on my mothers (like mutt-mix removed), so in some regards I can totally empathise with Pacy. Granted I never accidentally ate chicken feet, I'm half dutch so my regional things were super yummy- milked down tea in my bottle (hence my caffeine addiction and great, passionate love of tea) and chocolate sprinkles on morning toast- but had I been flown to Holland and immersed in the culture there's bound to have been some hiccups. And of course there is the language barrier, like the time my Oma sent me a delightful postcard- a close up picture of cherries- written entirely in dutch. I had no idea they were on a trip, and to this day I have no idea where they were or what the card says. I can just imagine how difficult all these things would be at 11 and in a middle of different country where you don't speak the language.
Lin very gracefully wove a fun story of adventure together with a lot of bigger issues of culture and family. I liked that she both showed Pacy's frustration and unhappiness but also managed to show her slowly developing appreciation for her background and the family she's been so estranged from. It's not all pre-teen angst, and for that I was grateful, because the only thing worse than witnessing angst is reading about it.
This is one of those books that has something for everyone, it adventuresome, it has great things to say about being different and accepting who you are, and it's a great introduction to Taiwanese culture for those who aren't already familiar with it. Personally I loved all the tales about where various traditions come from.
An enjoyable read for the young girls in your life, next time you're out book shopping with them (March break maybe?) keep you eyes peeled for Dumpling Days.
Dumpling Days, by Grace Lin
Published by Little Brown, January 2012
Buy Dumpling Days on Amazon
My copy from the BEA