Thoughts I Had While Reading THE JOY LUCK CLUB by Amy Tan

Four mothers, four daughters, four families, whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s telling the stories. In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters’ futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers’ advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives – until their own inner crises reveal how much they’ve unknowingly inherited of their mothers’ pasts. 

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

WARNING: This post will likely contain spoilers.

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Mini-Reviews, Volume 3

Catching up on all my reviews for Asian Lit Bingo is a much bigger undertaking than I had anticipated and is in fact a continuing process, though I don’t regret reading any of these books — regardless of how much I enjoyed the overall story experience, I learned a lot about different Asian and hyphenated-Asian (i.e., Asian-American, Asian-Australian, etc.) experiences different from my own. Each set of characters has unique struggles and dreams, illustrating the importance of diversity in publishing and of giving #ownvoices authors the opportunity to tell their stories as no one else can.

Without further ado, here are some books with Asian main characters, written by Asian authors, which have stuck with me and which I think more people should check out for themselves.

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[Blog Tour] REVIEW: Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen

Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.

After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time — and then they’ll be free.

It’s the perfect plan — except that it turns out maybe Mia and Jake don’t hate each other as much as they once thought …

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REVIEW: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around — she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

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REVIEW: It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

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REVIEW: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch — via text — and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

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Mini-Reviews, Volume 2

As you may know, I dedicated last month to ARCs and managed to finish off the ones I received through #ReviewPit. Many of these were indie and self-published titles, so I’m bending my unofficial policy of only posting blog reviews for books I have very strong opinions on, in the hopes that more readers will get the chance to read and enjoy them.

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REVIEW: Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway and received a free copy from Random House Publishing Group for review purposes. This does not affect my rating or opinions of the book.

Summary: “Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”

Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the country into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers — her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and of course, love.

How brown is too brown?
Can Indians be racist?
What does real love between really different people look like?

Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation — and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.

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