Throwaway Daughter by Ting-Xing Ye

“You can’t be two people at the same time-not without ending up in a mental institution.  I’m not just Grace Parker.  I’ve accepted that.  I wasn’t born at Soldier’s Memorial.  I was unwanted by my so-called real parents.  That’s the hard part, like a toothache that won’t go away.  They got rid of me.”

Grace’s parents adopted her from China when she was an infant, and Grace was never interested in her Chinese heritage.  As far as she could see it, she was unwanted and abandoned-why should she try and pursue the culture that rejected her, anyway?  When she stumbles across a newscast covering the massacre in Tiananmen Square, her perspective changes, and she begins the process of exploring her birth country and trying to find her birth mother.

This story is told with many voices: Grace’s, Grace’ adoptive mother, her birth mother, and various family members in China.  It also takes places in two countries, Canada and China.  Grace attends a summer session at an international school in China, and from there tracks down an orphanage worker who cared for her, and after a lot of  guesswork and bus journeys, her birth mother.

I have to admit, I’m fairly obsessed with stories of adoption, but it’s rare to come across one that’s a novel, rather than a memoir.  The memoirs can get repetitive quickly, but this book brings an interesting format, a political angle (with all the discussion of the Cultural Revolution, a part of the book I greatly enjoyed), and the perspective of the adopted child.  I enjoyed it quite a bit!

Happy Reading!

Ye, Ting-Xing with William Bell.  Throwaway Daughter. Seal Books: Canada. 295 pp. Ages 15 and up.

I’m sorry-I wasn’t able to find a website for the author! If you know of it, please let me know! Here is a quick biography, though: http://www.annickpress.com/authors/ye.asp?author=318

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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

“It’s easy to become anything you wish…so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”

This graphic novel is a super-award winner (the heavy hitters- the Printz Award and a National Book Award finalist nomination).  It is composed of three stories: the folk tale Monkey King, an blonde-haired, blue eyed student whose cousin, a very stereotyped Asian caricature, comes to visit, and then Jin’s story.

Jin’s parents are Chinese immigrants, who met in graduate school.  Until third grade, Jin lived in Chinatown in San Francisco, and had a good group of friends and a community.  However, when the family moves and he transfers to a different school, things get complicated.  Jin has to listen to the tired Chinese jokes, racial slurs and hurtful, ignorant comments of his classmates.  He’s not sure how to defend himself when other students ask if he eats dogs, or if he’s related to the other Asian student in the class.

When he develops a crush on a pretty, blonde girl, and one of the other white students confronts him and asks him not to date her, all of Jin’s internalized self-hatred combusts, and he ends up saying some very hurtful things to his only true friend.

Told in sections that juxtapose myths of the Monkey King, Jin’s internal thoughts, and his life at school, this graphic novel is provocative and interesting.  I finished it quickly, but it left me thinking for a long time after I stopped reading.  The honest reflection of prejudice and commentary on the process of assimilation made for some good dinner-table conversation.

Happy Reading!

Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. New York: First Second, 2006. Ages 12-15.

If you liked this graphic novel, this author has written several other books.  Check out Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks or The Motherless One.  If you want to explore books by other authors, my favorite graphic novel is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.