American Panda by Gloria Chao
Mei is 17 and starting at MIT to become a doctor that
she has always wanted to be her parents have pushed her to do. While struggling with the fact that she is a legitimate germaphobe going through premed she starts to discover that maybe everything that her parents think is the best for her just might not be exactly what she wants for her life. Like starting a dance studio, or *shock* dating a non Chinese boy.
As a Filipino American I am completely drawn to a story about any Asian American. While I am only half, there are some strong stereotypes that follow me around that had me relating to a lot of what she struggled with as far as Asian stereotyping went. Unfortunately, I don’t always agree with sometimes with the “it’s okay for me to say this because I am also *insert stereotyped group of people here*. Like, yeah, sometimes it’s funny to mutually tease about some social restrictions a particular culture has, then there are some instances where a stereotype is poked at without out being necessary. I only bring this up for one particular reason in this book: her mom can’t drive. Since this book was chock full of Chinese slams, I was irrationally annoyed by the fact that it is clearly pointed out that her mom can’t park and has yet another dent on the bumper. I was totally fine reading about the peculiar food, homeopathic traditions, racial restrictions, etc because that is something that is very particular to this situations. However, there are plenty of non Asian women that can’t drive too soooo….
Anyway, so if you didn’t get it from the rant above, this book has a lot of stereotypes that many people may be aware of and even some peculiar things that they had never heard of. Yes, a lot of it is pretty funny. Since I am part Asian it definitely was a little relatable. I think that most of the stereotypes weren’t too much in the face either though, and were lightly explained in a way that anyone, whether they go through something similar or not, can at least understand.
The fact that she is struggling against what her parents want is really just a base for the rest of her issues stem from. Does she really want to become a doctor so that she “always has a job” and wont have to worry about money? Does she really want to not talk to her brother anymore? Does she really not want to pursue a relationship with the cute Japanese boy who is showing interest in her? I love how it all really stems back to how she struggles with separating herself from how she was raised to how she really wants to be, regardless if it will disappoint her parents.
I did think it was a little strange that as far as school went she was mostly just struggling with the germs, I mean she mostly just hopped right into college courses just fine and I think that going to a school like MIT would have had a little bit more of an adjustment, even if she was having regular check ins with her parents.
I think one of my favorite things about all that Mei struggles with isn’t just about not getting money from her parents, but more of being conscious of what they had sacrificed for her and understanding them rather than just going against them. It’s not that she doesn’t understand that they have their traditional values, but rather she isn’t quite as traditional as them. I just thought it spoke volumes of how she differs from a typical rebellious kid.
Daya – Dare