The Many Meanings of Meilan

Andrea Wang. Kokila, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-11128-4
A few months before the novel begins, the death of beloved Huā family matriarch Nǎinai sends the fate of Taiwanese American family bakery Golden Phoenix into a tailspin in this carefully woven middle grade debut by Wang (Watercress). After Huā Měilán, 12, tells her cousin a bedtime story that instigates a family feud over finances, her father and his siblings sell the Boston Chinatown–based bakery. Měilán, her parents, and her widowed grandfather subsequently embark on an East Coast road trip ending in rural Rosebud, Ohio. Mourning the fracturing of her family, Lan—rechristened Melanie by her new middle school principal—swears off storytelling as she struggles to acclimate into an unfamiliar all-white environment and navigate her identity within her family and the world. Denoted in Pinyin, Mandarin dialogue and Chinese proverbs pepper the narrative, along with folkloric elements and allusions; Měilán’s compartmentalization is cleverly rendered in different readings of her name. The book can feel slightly overstuffed at times, but Lan’s encounters with microaggressions and racism are all too real in this gently fantastical tale. Back matter includes an author’s note on transliteration, a glossary of Mama’s proverbs, and additional resources. Ages 9–12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 08/18/2021
Release date: 08/17/2021
Genre: Children's
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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