cover image The Legend of Auntie Po

The Legend of Auntie Po

Shing Yin Khor. Kokila, $22.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-55489-9

In 1885, following the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese American Mei, 13, works alongside her father at a California logging camp, feeding 100 white lumberjacks and 40 Chinese workers. In her free time, Mei regales the women and children at camp with stories of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, reimagined as the legends of Auntie Po and her faithful blue buffalo, Pei Pei. Through these tellings, Mei navigates the dangers and politics of lumber camp work, her yearning to hold on to her cultural identity, her burgeoning acknowledgment of her queerness, and the waning dream of university education. When tragedy strikes, Mei’s faith in her invented god, Auntie Po, falters. But by connecting with traditions old and new, and harnessing the healing power of storytelling within her community, Mei begins to recognize her agency in a prejudiced world. Khor (The American Dream?) straddles myth and harsh realities via stunning digital pencil and hand-painted watercolor art that highlights cornerstones of Chinese culture. Much will resonate with diasporic readers, though any reader will find Mei’s journey cathartic. Informative spreads serve as sources of logging trivia, and an author’s note clarifies identity intersections and historical omissions. Ages 10–14. Agent: DongWon Song, Howard Morhaim Literary. (June)