Title: Dragon Chica by May-Li Chai
Publisher: Gemma Media
This title will be released in October 2010. I received this book as a free advanced electronic galley from the publisher.
Summary: Nea, a Chinese Cambodian teenage refugee from the Khmer Rouge, flees with what's left of her family to Texas when a miracle occurs. Struggling to get by in a strange new world, Nea's mother receives word that wealthy relatives have made it to America as well. The resolute little family stuffs Hefty bags full of belongings into the Ford and heads north. Ahead of them is the thrilling chance to help run the newly discovered family business, a Chinese restaurant in Nebraska.
The family is reunited, but soon Nea discovers their miracle is not what she had expected. Tempers flare; local reception is lukewarm, if not downright hostile; fights erupt; and Nea's beloved sister Sourdi is growing up and away from her far too fast. Then the past - and a forbidden love- threaten to tear them all apart.
Review: This was a fabulous coming of age story and a story about the clashing of cultures. The differences between big city vs small towns, Cambodian culture vs American culture and trying to fit in. Nea is caught between worlds, the world of her parents and the new world they have brought her to in America. Her mother is happy to be in America and wants her children to take advantage of the opportunities it affords but she also wants them to adhere to their Cambodian culture. The girls in the family are expected to work in the family restaurant while their brother doesn't have the same expectations. Nea is supposed to be the dutiful daughter but she can't help standing up for herself instead of just smiling and not making waves. Nea is a strong willed girl in a traditional Asian family trying to find her way and not disappoint her family too much. May-lee really shows the struggles between the old generation and the new, of not only trying to fit in when you look different but even trying to fit in within your family as you grow up in a new culture with different beliefs. Reminiscent of Amy Tan, May-lee has bridged the gap between Asians growing up in America and the expectations of their families to retain the old ways. Wonderful.