2 ways to get Trisha to read a book about an Asian-American
In the next two months, at least five YA books featuring Asian-American or part Asian-American protagonists will be published. Shocking, isn’t it? I mean, that’s almost like a whole year’s worth of what typically gets published. Two of these books will be published by HarperTeen two weeks apart. At least, I think HarperTeen is publishing two books about Asian-Americans.
Here’s Good Enough by Paula Yoo (February 5, 2008), the one that is for sure about an Asian-American:
How to make your Korean parents happy:
1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.
3. Don’t talk to boys.*
Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.
But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?
Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!
*Boys will distract you from your studies.
And She’s So Money by Cherry Cheva (January 22, 2008):
Question: What do you get when you take . . .
1 overachieving girl + 1 insanely cute guy + 1 massive fine + 1 scheme involving a little dishonesty and a whole lot of cash?
I’ve always been the good girl—working seriously long hours at my family’s restaurant and getting straight As. And Camden King was always just that hot, popular guy I’d pass in the halls, whose ego was probably much bigger than his brain. I didn’t think there’d ever be a reason for us to actually, like, interact.
Then again, I never thought I’d mess up so badly that my family might lose our entire restaurant if I didn’t come up with a ton of money, and fast. So that’s where Camden comes in—he and his evil/genius plan to do kids’ homework for cash.
I know cheating’s wrong, but it’s better than being dead, right? Which is what I’d be if my parents knew about what happened. I never expected things to spin so far out of control. Or that I’d be such a sucker for Camden’s lopsided grin. Or that falling apart could be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Answer: The time of my life.
Okay, so there is no mention of race or ethnicity in the She’s So Money book description, but one of the Library of Congress subject headings assigned to the book is Thai Americans––Fiction, so I’m assuming that it is about an Asian-American after all.
Anyway, if there’s one thing guaranteed to make me not want to read a book (besides seeing the words vampire and/or werewolf on a romance novel), it’s a YA book that seems to be primarily about an Asian-American struggling with the high academic expectations of strict parents. So no offense to Paula Yoo, who I’m sure is a very lovely person, but my initial reaction to the Good Enough description and the Booklist review of it in the November 15 issue was, I may buy it for my library, but there is no way I’m reading this. Because, really, don’t we already have enough books like this? But then I read Little Willow’s review, and I think she just convinced me to give it a try. Especially because, spam. That does intrigue me.
She’s So Money, on the other hand, I’ve been totally looking forward to since I first read the book description, before I even knew that it just might be about an Asian-American. I’d like to think it’s because it just sounds a lot more fun and that, even though the protagonist is smart, her parents are mentioned only in the context of them owning a restaurant. You know, nothing about them wanting their daughter to attend HarvardYalePrinceton or become a DoctorLawyerEngineer. But I do wonder, if Good Enough didn’t mention the fact that Patti is Korean, would I be more inclined to read it? Because while I do want to read more books with Asian-American characters, combine Korean (or Chinese or Japanese or any other kind of Asian) with parental expectations of the academic or professional sort and I immediately lose interest. I personally would much rather read about a character who just happens to be Asian-American, or who may be a stereotypical smart overachiever after all, but whose problems have less to do with parental expectations than, well, anything else. Something else. And She’s So Money simply seems more like that type of book.
So there you go. Two ways to get me to read a book about an Asian-American. 1) Downplay the whole race/ethnicity issue, or 2) Make sure spam is an important enough part of the book that two different reviewers mention it. Or, you know, if a book actually meets all five points I mention here.