Northwest Asia Weekly
Mermaid, witch and the sea
Author: Maggie Detian Hall
Candle Wick Press, 2020
Living a life on the high seas, Flora became Florian, sailing under the banner of the Pigeon. As someone who turned from an orphan to a pirate, she was looted, stolen, and even worse. Everything is in the name of survival. But then she met Mrs. Evelyn Hasegawa on the way to arrange the marriage, she was the daughter of the royal family from the pigeon.
As the two became close and fell in love, Flora began to really think about her past behavior—especially when the captain and crew were supposed to show their true colors and enslaved their wealthy passengers. Soon, the couple who lived by the rules and whims of others took their destiny in their own hands.
Next is a bluffing adventure full of action, magic, mermaid, etc.
This is an interesting story. Tokuda-Hall’s world architecture is very extensive, you know we will visit this universe again (according to her website, we will visit again). Although compared with other fantasy stories, the magic element is a bit more low-key, but we have different views on mermaid and witchcraft-these two types of main characters have been interpreted countless times.
When I grow up, I like fantasy stories. Witch, dragon, castle, I was (and now) there. But it is always white children who go through these adventures. Tokuda-Hall’s story features diverse characters from different races and ethnic backgrounds, including two strong young women of color, which is exactly the kind of story I longed for when I was young. The story of Flora (black) and Evelyn (whose imperial background is a mixture of Japanese, American, and British cultures) is not only about the trauma they endured or the difficulties they faced. Teenagers are complex, imperfect, can control their own destiny, and can save people they care about.
“Mermaid” also includes characters with different sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions-everyone accepts them without hesitation except for a few people with judgment. This is the kind of variety, nuance, and complexity that readers of all ages want and need.
Zara Hussein is here
Academic fiction, 2021
Zara Hossain, 17, is like most teenagers in Texas. She goes to class, considers college applications, and tolerates her best friend making fun of possible romantic interests. The Pakistani immigrant also had to face the Islamophobia of her classmates-but she could not waver because her family was still waiting for their green card approval.
But one day, Taylor Benson-the star football player and Zara’s personal torturer-took things too far and left a threat on Zara’s locker. After he was suspended, he destroyed Zara’s house with racially discriminatory graffiti, which resulted in a violent crime that put Zara, her future, and her family (who moved to the United States because of her father’s work) at risk .
“Zara Hossain” is a powerful story about a young woman learning how to fight for herself and her loved ones. When Zara chooses the option of staying in the country for her family, readers can get a glimpse of how complicated our immigration system is. Even the “right” people are not only a long and tedious process, but their status in this country is so fragile that a little carelessness will change things. Zara’s story can be an eye-opener for anyone who takes American citizenship for granted.
Another thing I appreciate about this story is the relationship between Zara and her parents and how close they are. Usually in stories that feature the children of immigrants or young people who are immigrants themselves, the relationship between them and their parents is often combative and full of misunderstandings (both sides). But Zara’s parents particularly understand and accept it—even at the expense of their position in the local Muslim community. This is especially true when it comes to Zara’s bisexuality. One of my favorite scenes in the book is Zara’s parents defending her against a particularly gossiping aunt. Representation is important not only to highlight stories like Zara, but also to show that not all immigrant parents are the same.
Our short-lived gorgeousness on earth
Author: Ocean Vuong
Penguin Books, 2019
Although his mother could not read, the puppy wrote her a letter. Little Dog wrote when he was in his 20s and even discovered the history of their family before he was born-a history rooted in Vietnam. The letter also introduced parts of Little Dog’s life that his mother had never understood-including his exploration of his sexuality and his relationship with a boy named Trevor when he was young.
In his letter, Puppy talked about his life moments when he grew up with a single mother in a country that did not belong to her. Their relationship is far from perfect, because his mother occasionally abused, which may trigger some people, so if readers choose to pick up this book, please keep this in mind. But despite this, it is clear that the puppy loves his mother. This raises the question of how to reconcile our love for someone when they are also the source of our pain and trauma. As Vuong showed, there is no easy answer.
If you are looking for a story with a plot, “On Earth” knows it very well. Admittedly, this made it difficult for me to enter the book at first. I have been waiting for something to happen. But Little Dog’s letter is a reminiscence of the moments in his life with his family-he grew up as the son of Vietnamese immigrants in Hartford, Connecticut.
Vuong gives us an in-depth understanding of a family still dealing with the aftermath of the Vietnam War, which is decades after the last shot was fired, and reminds us that intergenerational trauma is very real.
Little Dog’s story shows readers how traumatic war and violence are, and how it affects more than individuals. It is handed down and can affect the entire family for several generations.
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