Front Desk (hardcover)
by Kelly Yang
Front Desk is about a girl named Mia who is a Chinese immigrant. Her parents left in search of the American Dream, but they find themselves practically destitute and living well below the poverty line. Mia gets made fun of for her clothing and the way she speaks, and her dream is to become a writer, but her teacher just marks her papers in red ink. Mia’s mother even tells her you cannot beat a car when you are a bicycle, which leaves her feeling hopeless. Mia and her parents end up running a motel in Anaheim, California on Coast Boulevard (aka Beach, I think) for a horrible, cheap, owner, who treats them terribly and expects way too much from them. Mia also faces a lot of racism not only against her as a Chinese immigrant, but racism against black people, and she finds this especially intolerable. Mia takes it upon herself to start writing letters to make situations better for herself and those she cares about.
What I liked about this book is that I wasn’t expecting the level of care when it came to telling the stories of Chinese immigrants. I read a lot about immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries and even middle eastern countries, but rarely about immigrants from China. I appreciated that I was able to learn something I didn’t already know, as well as see basically no sterotyping. I also liked how Mia was able to make use of her skills to change the injustices that she saw.
What I didn’t like about the book was the frustrations that Mia had with the adults in her life, especially her teacher. We as teachers are supposed to be better than that. I have many students who need to work on their grammar and spelling, but never in my life would I mark a paper up in red pen with exclamation points emphasizing how horrible it is. She had a responsibility to be supportive and watch out for Mia, but she failed miserably.
Book 77 of 40
(Book 43 of 2018)