A Taiwanese family tries their luck in America.
In this verse novel, it’s 1980, and nearly 11-year-old Ai Shi and her mother prepare to leave Taipei to join her father in California, where he is pursuing a business opportunity with a friend. The extended family send them off, telling Ai Shi she’s so lucky to go to the “beautiful country”—the literal translation of the Chinese name for the U.S. Once they are reunited with Ba, he reveals that they have instead poured their savings into a restaurant in the remote Los Angeles County town of Duarte. Ma and Ba need to learn to cook American food, but at least, despite a betrayal by Ba’s friend, they have their own business. However, the American dream loses its shine as language barriers, isolation, financial stress, and racism take their toll. Ai Shi internalizes her parents’ disappointment in their new country by staying silent about bullying at school and her own unmet needs. Her letters home to her favorite cousin, Mei, maintain that all is well. After a year of enduring unrelenting challenges, including vandalism by local teens, the family reaches its breaking point. Hope belatedly arrives in the form of community allies and a change of luck. Kuo deftly touches on complex issues, such as the human cost of the history between China and Taiwan as well as the socio-economic prejudices and identity issues within Asian American communities.
A powerfully candid and soulful account of an immigrant experience.(Verse historical fiction. 9-12)