Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas

Peiling is dreading the Christmas break. She hates hearing all of the other kids talk about Christmas, when her family does not celebrate the holiday. She always wanted to celebrate Christmas, but was afraid that her stodgy dad would say "no". With a little pushing from her Uncle Samson, Peiling approaches her parents who to her surprise say "yes" to Christmas this year.

Peiling has the perfect Christmas in that she imagines would be happening over at Laura Hamilton's house. It has Christmas cookies, carols, a perfect tree and a turkey for dinner. When Peiling's mother invites Peiling's teacher Mrs. Rosenweig for dinner, Peiling is suddenly embarrassed by her family. The mahjong and karaoke are bad enough, but when she realizes that mother has added Chinese elements to all of the dishes, she is put over the edge. It's hard enough being the only Chinese girl in her class...why does it have to be so hard at home too?

Pauline Chen has written a quintessential culture clash story with Christmas as a catalyst. Readers get to see well-meaning Mrs. Rosenweis use Peiling as an example of multiculturalism, as well as the everyday under the radar racism that kids face. We get a real sense of Peiling's family and culture effortlessly, and the story is sweet and readers can easily relate to Peiling's sense of embarrassment, no matter what culture their families are from.

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