Even though today’s calendar reminds you it’s Friday the 13th, no worries! Let me share with you the youthful wisdom of one Grace Pacy Lin: “There was no day dumplings couldn’t make better.” After a long-awaited four-year hiatus, Pacy’s back … with a peripatetic, toothsome adventure to share.
Pacy, the alter-ego of 2010 Newbery Honor author Grace Lin (for her splendiferous Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), stars in her third title, following The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat. This time, Pacy is Taiwan-bound for a month with her family to celebrate her grandmother’s upcoming 60th birthday.
Dressed identically with her two sisters in “hot-pink overall dresses” and grumpily stuck in the middle seat of a long flight, Pacy would much rather be heading to Hawai’i or California (where she could at least see her best friend Melody). Taiwan might be her parents’ “homeland,” but for Pacy and sisters, “our small town of New Hartford, New York – with its big trees and sprawling lawns, the one shopping mall, and the red brick school with the tall, waving American flag – was our homeland.” Yet as her father patiently explains, “‘This is an important trip … Traveling is always important – it opens your mind. You take something with you, you leave something behind, and you are forever changed. That is a good trip.’”
The food, with so many different kinds of dumplings, is one experience that makes Pacy’s trip deliciously “good” (never mind the chicken feet and stinky tofu). Even more important than filling her belly, though, is feeding her heart, talent, and soul as Pacy gets to know her extended family and experience her ancestral culture through art, travel, and even riding the city subway.
Lin gently explores the disconnect of a second-generation child making a first visit to a country both familiar and alien: Pacy’s feelings of not being American enough at home (“‘It’s hard to match you in a cute couple …You don’t fit anyone else,’” a school friend insists) and yet being rejected as an Americanized “Twinkie” by other Taiwanese Americans, then realizing that in spite of her heritage, she doesn’t quite fit in her parents’ homeland, either. By book’s end, Pacy’s empathetic understanding of her parents’ immigration to the U.S. is especially memorable.
In case you might think the story overly familiar, Lin manages to deftly add a 21st-century spin on the ‘stranger-in-a-strange-land’ tale, re-introducing Pacy’s favorite cousin Clifford (whose wedding figured prominently in The Year of the Rat) and his wife Lian, who are now living in Taiwan as a result of the growing opportunities of reverse immigration in today’s global economy. Lin keeps surprising you with SAT-prayers to the ancient God of Literature, a subway pickpocket, a garbage truck that sings the ice cream truck song, and so much more … of course!
Tidbit: Make sure to check out the adorable book trailer.
Readers: Middle Grade