Review of Enlighten Me

Enlighten Me Enlighten Me
by Minh Lê; illus. by Chan Chau
Intermediate, Middle School    LB Ink/Little, Brown    144 pp.
9/23    9780759555471    $24.99
Paper ed.  9780759555488    $12.99
e-book ed.  9780316395526    $9.99

Middle-schooler Binh isn’t happy about his Vietnamese American family’s trip to a silent Buddhist meditation retreat. His beloved Game Boy is taken away, and, worse, Binh has to write an apology for shoving the school bully to the ground after he’d directed anti-Asian racist remarks at Binh. During the retreat, through Sister Peace’s skillful teachings and meditation, Binh learns to set aside his angst and anger and find the inner wisdom, strength, and community to handle life’s challenges. Frequent cool colors in dynamically composed panels made for a sweet and surprisingly soothing comic. Siddhartha Gautama’s path to enlightenment and the Jataka tales (fables connected to Buddha’s prior forms) are made accessible by framing them through Binh’s perspective, with some video-game allusions and nature imagery, talking animals, and spirits. Both readers who are unfamiliar with the religion and those who practice it will enjoy this refreshing, modern Buddhist primer, complete with a bibliography that lists other educational texts. As Sister Peace says, “The journey to becoming a Buddha is long, and not one that should be traveled alone.”

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a young adult librarian for the New York Public Library.

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