Read Women, Reviews

American Panda

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American Panda

by Gloria Chao

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

American Panda is about Mei Lu in her first year at MIT, only 17 years old after skipping a year. Living with the weight of her parents planned out future for her, she finds herself confronting hard truths such as the fact due to her germaphobia being a doctor might not be in her future after all and how her parents handle this fact, or really, lack of handling it in the same way they had with her older brother Xing.

American Panda is probably one of my favourite books I’ve read this year (Yeah yeah I know I say that every time, but it’s true!). It handles a lot of difficult issues that aren’t always discussed and does it in a fashion that’s realistic. Some issues including racism within Asian communities, disownment, germaphobia, not living up to parents expectations, and being the person you really are. Mei as a character is shy but extremely sassy when pressed. Honestly, I fell in love with her soon after starting the book and it only grew the more I read about her. She’s brave and brutally honest when she needs to be the most but is also sweet enough to stand up for people, even complete strangers.

Every relationship in this book in all honesty is handled well and with care, even characters that are more off to the side are fleshed out and brought to life. I’m not always the biggest fan of straight relationships, but the one between Mei and Darren is so sweet you will get cavities. It’s done in a way that’s sweet but real, Mei worrying that her family might lead to Darren hurt from everything she had witnessed with Xing and his girlfriend Esther. The relationship with Xing and Mei is the perfect example of siblings with a big age gap between them, something I know well with my older brother being 10 years older then I am. It reminded me of my brother and myself a lot and it hit me with happiness to see our relationship mirrored in this book.

I could go on forever about this book, but I’m gonna keep away from too many spoilers, just the hints of issues that occurred in the book that leads the plot, as mentioned above. All I’ll say is my life mirrored Mei’s in a lot of ways. One event in particular was almost dead on for what happened after I came out with my dad’s side of the family. All I’ll say is, I’m happy Mei went, even if it led to a huge fight with her family, it gave her the chance to grieve properly, which I sadly never got to chance to do myself.

I highly recommend this book. Its the right amount of sweet and adorable with real life issues that happen to people throughout life and it’s handled beautifully. Also, hot chocolate wins every day.

Rating: 5 stars 

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Read Women, Reviews

Halloween is for Jumbies

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Rise of the Jumbies

by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven’t exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne.
To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D’Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D’Leau’s help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to the shores of Ghana to fetch a powerful object for Mama D’Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne’s adventures across the sea is the foe that waits for her back home.

First, I’d like to thank Algonquin Young Readers for sending me my first book from a publisher for Halloween this year.

Rise of Jumbies is the sequel to The Jumbies, both stories that will live you with chills despite it being middle grade books. Corinne is a young girl who has faced off with Jumbies to save both her town and the Jumbies themselves from her evil aunt. Corinne, half Jumbie herself, is a fierce girl who will do anything for her village, even if her village now doesn’t trust her. So when kids start go missing, she is willing to go to far lengths to get them back, even if it brings her all the way to Ghana and back.

The thing I love most about these books, not just because it’s helped me out of a reading slump, is the fact the author doesn’t try to make Jumbies, a type of monster that was told to children to make them behave, kid friendly. One creature are kids that become possessed by spirits. The only way to tell is by their backward feet. Jumbies will give you chills and make you want to learn more about old myths and legends just as much as the story itself. Which makes it a perfect Halloween read for all ages, full of diversity and simply good story telling.

I personally loved the second book even more than the first book, weirdly enough. This one brought us Jumbies of the ocean where the first one gave us Jumbies of the forest on their little island. We got mermaids and what I could only call boss Jumbies of the water and land. We got off the island and go to Ghana and learn that despite the distance, both cultures still has a spirit of the water, just by different names. We get Corinne being cunning and fierce as ever, who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the other kids of her island. The story is exciting and fixes what was left open in the first book while picking up the pace. I admit, I didn’t see some of the bigger plot twists coming and laughed more than once aloud. This book is worth the hype around it. It’s fun and beautiful.

I highly recommend this book to fans of creepy stories for all ages. I think that its stuff that kids wouldn’t really find creepy or think too much about while adults get that chill from the descriptions while enjoying a fun story and the friendship between characters. Pick up the first book first, because it’ll help give you a better understanding of Severine and the character of Allan, who becomes important in this story.

Rating: 4 stars

Reviews

Mis(h)adra

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Mis(h)adra

by Iasmin Omar Ata

An Arab-American college student struggles to live with epilepsy in this starkly colored and deeply-cutting graphic novel.
Isaac wants nothing more than to be a functional college student—but managing his epilepsy is an exhausting battle to survive. He attempts to maintain a balancing act between his seizure triggers and his day-to-day schedule, but he finds that nothing—not even his medication—seems to work. The doctors won’t listen, the schoolwork keeps piling up, his family is in denial about his condition, and his social life falls apart as he feels more and more isolated by his illness. Even with an unexpected new friend by his side, so much is up against him that Isaac is starting to think his epilepsy might be unbeatable.
Based on the author’s own experiences as an epileptic, Mis(h)adra is a boldly visual depiction of the daily struggles of living with a misunderstood condition in today’s hectic and uninformed world.

This beautifully done graphic novels follows Isaac who is trying to graduate from college while suffering from epilepsy. His seizures are so bad he loses an eye after a bad one at a party at a friends place. Having to deal with his seizures and ending up in doctors offices and in the hospital where doctors don’t really listen to him while trying to attend class, barely managing to get through without flunking out. He learns that him pushing away in hopes of not inconveniencing them and that his life, despite his chronic illness, is worth living.

This story hit really close to home, leaving me still close to tears as I write this. I suffer from a chronic illness that had me flunking out of high school right before graduating, in too much pain just to breathe, let alone attend classes. I graduated four years later, when I was finally able to balance the pain and manage to listen to my body and not push it over the edge again. I still have bad episodes that leave me nearly unable to finish my own college classes and I don’t have anything to manage the pain, but I’m learning that my life is still worth it, just like Isaac. Like Jo, I suffered from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome while taking the same medication to help with my depression. I was lucky because I was warned ahead of time, so when my back started burning so bad I couldn’t have clothes touching it, my mom rushed to my pharmacist for me and got me started on meds to get it out of my system (I was in no condition to be going out. It took me a few days before the rash went down fully, so I didn’t end up in a life threatening experience like Jo, thankfully). I’ll always have the spots on my skin from it, in which almost flare up every now and again for one reason or another. But I didn’t fully know that it was that until I read this comic, that I wasn’t the only one that got it on my back instead of my feet and hands, which is why they didn’t send me straight to hospital for it. I cried because I wasn’t alone. And that’s why representation matters.

This book is simply beautiful as it is horrifying. But in that horror it isn’t hiding the truth or making seizures out to be something ‘romantic’ but life threatening. I showed that chronic illnesses can affect people and their lives so much and how hard you have to fighting with doctors over it because they don’t want to listen. I still end up in the ER being told my ribs are probably just inflamed and it’s not my Fibro and told to go home despite struggling to breathe. It’s not easy and this read isn’t either. But it does tell you the truth about chronic illnesses that many people don’t fully understand.

I highly recommend this book not only for the writing, but the art. It’s beautifully done and ties in the fact Isaac is Arab beautifully. This graphic novel is beautifully done as it is important. So do me a favor, read this book. And support those of us that are sick and understand that things aren’t easy for us. But we are trying our best. Don’t think we’re lying. Don’t abandon us because you don’t think we’re being true when we need you the most. I might not have had a Jo in person, but I had someone who was there for me when I needed them most and I admit, I fear I wouldn’t have survive it.

Rating: 5 stars