I am glad that more and more books are focused on the Asian/Chinese, but also Vietnamese - American identity and the challenges to tradition. Asian societies are very traditional and especially for the first generation living abroad for various reasons - mostly for political reasons - the pressure on their, eventually, American-born children is enormous. The children should be respectful towards their parents while getting the best education - doctors and lawyers mostly - and marrying another successful-educated child - doctor and lawyer mostly - wthin the tribe.
The American Panda by Gloria Chao tells the story of the very smart Mei who with 17 she joined MIT, in preparation of a medical school program, but who little by little gets the strength to tell her parents that she has a path to follow and a life to live. A life that she wants to - finally- chose by herself. Her adventures into getting control of her own life are sometimes hilarious, sometimes too childish for my taste, but what's important is the genesis of her strength.
She is not completely on her own though as she has the example of her brother, Xing, cut off from the family already 4 years before, because he refused to comply. From a naive, dominated by her authoriarian mother, Panda-like girl, Mei is little by little getting out of the family chains and start thinking completely by herself. Thereatened to be cut off by the family, she has at least her brother.
The making off of Mei's character strength is for me one of the most interesting part of the book and really enjoyed the literary achievement. Mei's naivity and her childish episodes were not my favorites but it makes sense for her way of being, although sometimes they were stupid enough to not concur with her apparently high intelligence. But after all, you can be intelligent and still lack a basic knowledge of how the world is and functions.
If you are interested in stories about Asian-American identity, with a touch of YA, this book is a good and easy way to start the exploration.
Rating: 3 stars