When the new student in town happens be Taiwanese just like her, Ali Chu’s world is turned upside down—and not in the ways she might have imagined.
Ali is used to being different: Since moving to Indiana, she’s been the only Asian in her whole school. Her classmates can’t pronounce her name, and she has to drive to another town for kung fu lessons—where she’s still the only Asian. Things aren’t much better at home, with parents who won’t address any of their problems or family secrets. Instead, they don’t talk at all. Then Chase Yu arrives, and suddenly Ali has someone who understands her jokes and has her back when she stands up to teachers. The problem of Ali’s family remains. To move forward, Ali has to uncover what their past means for her future. Chao (American Panda, 2018) brings readers a witty protagonist who breaks stereotypes of Chinese Americans by simply being herself. At the same time, she faces problems, including casual racism and balancing commitments to family and self, that she experiences in culturally specific ways. Interspersed throughout are scenes from “The Butterfly Lovers,” a folktale that at first seems a perplexing addition to Ali’s story but becomes relevant in the end.
A spirited novel exploring the clash between Midwestern America and the expectations of immigrant parents. (note about Mandarin, author’s note) (Fiction. 13-18)