THE COOK'S FAMILY by Laurence Yep


Age Range: 10 - 13
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In a poignant sequel to Ribbons (1996), two strangers comfort a lonely old man with a shared, ongoing fantasy. Drawn to a disturbance outside a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant, Robin and her grandmother find themselves play-acting, soothing a drunken cook named Wolf by pretending to be his lost wife and daughter. Wolf isn't fooled, but reminiscing with his "wife" and watching his brown-haired, green-eyed "daughter" dance makes him feel better, so he willingly goes along. On what becomes weekly visits, Robin receives as much comfort as she gives, for the domestic war between her Chinese mother and non-Chinese father (and the tension between traditional Chinese and typically American ideas of family obligation) has made home a hard place to be. In his characters' banter and behavior, Yep makes clear the difference between ethnic stereotypes and what is simply common--and when Wolf's real daughter, an illegal immigrant living in San Diego, puts in a surprise appearance, her loud, nasty rudeness casts an ironic light on Robin's efforts to be more "Chinese" for Wolf, i.e., silent, obliging, and submissive. Yep sensitively explores the complexities of immigrant culture from several points of view, creates an appealing, diverse cast, and gives his plot both a memorable premise (drawn, as he explains in an afterword, from actual incidents) and a strong, bittersweet ending. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1998
ISBN: 0-399-22907-8
Page count: 186pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997


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