Monday, July 24, 2006
This book has been staring at me from the stacks at school for a couple of years now. I finally got around to reading it!
Oy and her family have moved to a new neighbourhood, and Oy has had to switch schools. In her old school, nobody bothered her about being Asian. At this school, things are different. Frankie kept saying, "What are you?" He keeps calling her Chinese. In fact, because of Frankie kids on the playground keep calling her China, or Chinita. Oy, in fact, is Thai.
All Oy wants to do is fit in. The cool girls, led by Liliandra, all hang out in her clubhouse under the jungle gym. Oy wishes that she could be invited as well.
One day a photo falls out of Oy's backpack and Liliandra sees it. It is Oy in her traditional Thai dress that her grandmother had brought to her from Thailand. It is a beautiful pink dress, run through with gold stitching. Liliandra decides to invite Oy over to the clubhouse. But there is a catch. She must bring her special Thai dress with her.
Oy is torn. She desperately wants to fit in, but she is also worried about lying to her mother and bringing her dress to school.
This is a very young story. The characters are in fourth grade and are quite innocent. The best thing about the story is the honest portrayal of Oy's being "stuck" between two cultures. She has one foot in the Thai world, and one in her American neighbourhood.
Marsden has done a great job of exploring race between children. The majority of Oy's classmates are Mexican American, and her own household is traditional Thai. The insensitivity of her classmates calling her Chinese or from Taiwan, does not get lost on the reader.
I would recommend this to younger readers who are interested in contemporary fiction, and to those readers who may find themselves merging cultures.