The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful novel that explores the reality of being a young adult with migrant parents and cultural bias about mental illness. Anna knows that something is not right with her Mum. She lies in bed for weeks at a time and experiences uncontrollable rage at others, but Anna has no words to deal with it. She struggles to be a good sister to her younger siblings and a good daughter, not leaving much time to be herself. When she meets Rory she gets an inkling of what a regular teenage life is like but as her mother's condition worsens all is put under threat.
Chim writes so beautifully about the reality of being caught between two cultures as Anna tries to be the good daughter and sister, and the misunderstandings of mental illness in migrant communities. The shame and embarrassment that makes it a taboo subject and means that treatment is harder to come by.
Chim doesn't take the easy way out in displaying the reality of mental illness and its toll on the sufferer and the family. The last pages of this book made me cry. I absolutely adore this book and it is such a great addition to the loveozya cannon. It needs to be taught in schools to demystify mental illness and open up conversations with young people.
I also love the way she depicts relationships between young people and validates the relationship between Rory and Anna as real and true. Rory is a beautiful character and their love story was so tender and heart-felt. But where this book shines the most is in the way she writes about families and she has created such real characters in Baba, Anna's father who is working so hard to provide for his family, Lily-her younger sister who is so smart and full of ambition, and her younger artistic-loving brother Michael. Their struggles and interactions ring so true, there is so much love, even when there is so much pain. A beautiful book and a spellbinding read.
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Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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