Review of Parachute Kids

Parachute KidsParachute Kids
by Betty C. Tang; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Graphix/Scholastic    288 pp.
4/23    9781338832693    $24.99
Paper ed.  9781338832686    $12.99

For many immigrant families, the American dream is a journey paved with countless obstacles; this struggle plays out in the lives of three Taiwanese siblings in Tang’s graphic novel. The story begins in 1981 when the Lin family, undocumented immigrants from Taiwan, arrives in Los Angeles, allegedly for a vacation. But soon ten-year-old Feng-Li (who adopts the American name Ann) and her older brother Ke-Gāng (Jason) and sister Jia-Xi (Jessie) find out that the move is permanent, and their father is not staying with them; a month later they learn they will need to fend for themselves—their mother must return to China after her visa is not renewed. They work to adapt to American culture: Feng-Li strives to make friends in school; Ke-Gāng searches for his identity while joining a clique of Chinese American teens that pressures him into smoking, skipping class, shoplifting, and worse; Jia-Xi studies for the SATs and looks for a job but falls prey to an insidious scam. Vibrant colors and expressively drawn faces capture the dynamic ups and downs in their lives. Intense dilemmas punctuated by humorous moments dramatize the challenges faced by each character. Tang weaves themes of family, racial stereotyping, cultural adaptation, sacrifice, peer pressure, sexuality, bullying, and survival into a poignant and triumphant story of perseverance and resilience, presenting a remarkably honest depiction of an Asian American immigrant experience.

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jerry Dear

Jerry Dear, information strategist at the San Francisco Public Library, also teaches in the Library Information Technology program at City College of San Francisco. He contributes to the blogs for APALA, Hyphen Magazine, and No Flying No Tights.

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