cover image My Father, the Panda Killer

My Father, the Panda Killer

Jamie Jo Hoang. Crown, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-5936-4296-2

A Vietnamese American teenager in 1999 struggles to unpack her abusive father’s traumatic upbringing in Hoang’s dual-narrative, series-starting debut. Ever since their mother left three years prior, 17-year-old Jane Vũ has been the primary caretaker for her seven-year-old brother Paul. She often shields Paul from their father’s physical abuse and reasons that his violent tendencies stem from his childhood in postwar Vietnam. As Jane readies to leave San Jose to attend UCLA on scholarship, she worries what her father might do to Paul in her absence. Hoping to prepare Paul, Jane tells him the story of the past their father never discusses. In an alternating first-person POV that follows Jane’s present and third-person telling of her then-13-year-old father’s harrowing escape from Vietnam in 1975 by boat, Hoang delivers a searing novel inspired by her own family history. Graphic language renders brutal scenes of parental abuse that are sometimes hard to read; still, equally lush storytelling details surreal sequences bordering on the fantastical amid Jane’s father’s migration, as well as chilling depictions of Vietnamese refugees’ search for freedom, and the impact their trauma has on their futures, making for a riveting intergenerational drama. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Aug.)