American Panda by Gloria Chao | Teen Ink

American Panda by Gloria Chao MAG

June 18, 2018
By Celia Buell SILVER, Skokie, Illinois
Celia Buell SILVER, Skokie, Illinois
7 articles 3 photos 24 comments

I haven’t sat down and read good realistic fiction since January, when I read The Hate U Give with a book club. Strangely, I drew a lot of parallels between that one and American Panda, which is about a Taiwanese girl, a freshman at MIT, who lives under the pressure from her traditional family to conform to Taiwanese standards. However, Mei does not want an arranged marriage, and there are factors that keep her from becoming a doctor – the only things her parents ever wished for her. American Panda is a journey of self-discovery and overcoming adversity.

I am a white girl living in America. My mother is third generation American, and my dad’s family goes back even further. I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life, so have many generations before me. I started off reading both The Hate U Give and American Panda with a sense of disbelief. I somehow just couldn’t wrap my head around what a lot of what people face.

While The Hate U Give and American Panda are centered around very different issues and cultures, they’ve both helped me step out of the more sheltered world I live in. Yes, I’ve seen discrimination, but I live in a very open and diverse suburb of Chicago. I don’t see racism in the halls, and I’m not really close enough with anyone to know what their home life is like outside of the day to day. But with American Panda, I really did learn a lot about a culture and lifestyle that I’d never had a chance to look into before.

American Panda perfectly blends American and Chinese superstitions, right up to the exclusion of both a Chapter 4 and a Chapter 13. That, too, was something that especially called to me about this novel. The writing style incorporated so many superstitions, metaphors and idioms, both Chinese and American. I really love when a writer can successfully mix those elements into a story without making it sound cheesy and cliché, but Gloria Chao creates the perfect blend.

I look forward to reading more authentic novels like American Panda. I used to read a lot of novels about cancer and other people with illness, and they were just not genuine. It wasn’t because the author wasn’t trying, it was simply because they didn’t actually have firsthand experiences with the subject and characters they were writing about. That’s another reason why I thoroughly enjoyed both American Panda and The Hate U Give – because I could really feel the authors’ passions for the issues and experiences they were writing about. There’s so much raw truth in both novels, and reading them was a great way for me to gain an understanding into worlds I have never been a part of and may never have firsthand experience with.

The author's comments:

I post a lot of reviews on Goodreads. I'm a reader and self-described book hoarder and I love to give back love to the authors who've guided me throughout my journey in life by reviewing every book I read.

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