Television journalist Wagner steps into the world of nonfiction for young readers with this adaptation of her 2018 adult memoir of the same title.
Growing up as a half-Burmese and half-white mixed-race child, Wagner rarely felt strong ties to any particular identity or heritage. When extended family lets slip their suspicions that her father’s side of the family may have Jewish roots, Wagner latches onto the possibility, which sends her on a deep dive into her roots on both sides of her family. In the vein of the now-ubiquitous celebrity genealogy shows, Wagner first traces her mother’s roots in Burma, a country her family fled during political upheaval in the mid-20th century. Later she turns to her father’s purported roots in Luxembourg before finally testing the waters of commercial DNA testing. Along the way she discovers that family stories of heroes and villains are rarely so clearly defined; rather, nuance is the order of the day regardless of one’s roots. Families and cultures are composed of generations of fallible human beings who make both brave and opportunistic decisions with wonderful and terrible results. Whether this young readers’ adaptation will have broad appeal among its intended middle-grade and YA audience is debatable. Nevertheless, it is well written and personable. To those intrepid young readers with a genuine interest in genealogy, family history, and the interplay of the two with larger cultural and historical events, this will be a welcome addition.
A truly human story for those with a keen interest. (Memoir. 10-16)