Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Land of Broken Promises

Kuo, Jane. Land of Broken Promises
June 6, 2023 by Quill Tree Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this sequel to In the Beautiful Country, we continue with Ai Shi (aka Anna) Zhang's story in 1982. The family fast food restaurant is doing well enough, and the racist, violent vandalism has stopped. Sixth grade is over, and while many of her fellow classmates are planning on going to camp or spending their day hanging out and watching television, Ai Shi knows that she will instead be working every day with her parents, and won't even be able to hang out with her best friend Tiffany. When Tiffany's father loses his job, she ends up going to spend time with relatives. While cleaning up the apartment, the Zhangs uncover a pile of mail that includes a notice that their visa has expired, and that they were supposed to have renewed it or left the country over a year ago. Knowing that this is going to be a problem that requires an expensive lawyer, Ai Shi's mother takes a job working at a friend's bakery in the city in order to earn some money. Before she leaves. she makes Ai Shi promise that she will not "waste her time" reading books, but will instead do a good job working at the restaurant. Ai Shi tries, but it can be very boring. Her father, seeing her distress, eventually allows her to read, and the two make the best of their time together. When the mother returns, the family consults a lawyer, only to find that there is no good answer to their problem; they can file a claim with immigration and run the risk of being deported, or NOT file a claim and run the same risk; the visa they had was not one that was likely to lead to citizenship. Starting middle school under the cloud of being "illegal" is tough, and Ai Shi feels her family's differences very deeply. This novel in verse is based on the author's own experiences. 
Strengths: This is a timely historical novel that addresses issues of immigration and racism that continue to be problematic today. I was glad to see that Ai Shi had teachers who tried to help her, and who shared their own family stories of immigration. There are some good 1980s details about being in middle school. (I was in high school and college, so can attest to the popularity of Members Only jackets but had to look up Pee Chee folders.) Modern tweens would benefit from a summer working in a fast food restaurant without any technology; this is as close as most of them will get! 
Weaknesses: The first book had a more interesting plot. The depiction of the local Taiwanese community, as well as setting up the restaurant, was much more enjoyable than that of Ai Shi being unhappy working in the restaurant for the summer, although I appreciated her acknowledgement that perhaps some day she would have fond memories of the time spent with her father. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who liked the first book and want to know more about the Zhang family's story. There seems like there could be another book after this, since it ended very abruptly. 

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:12 PM EDT

    Thanks for your reviews. I wish I had time to read all these books! Carol Baldwin