Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

In this humorous and heartfelt debut about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She's ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother's sister, is coming to visit for several months -- and is staying in Lucy's room. Lucy's vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.

This is an interesting topic, and a theme that is also being explored in recent Australian children’s fiction.   The book explores what it feels like to be an American born Chinese girl.  Lucy is American, she loves basketball and would rather eat lasagne than authentic Chinese food.  She’s looking forward to her sister going away to college because it means she finally gets her own room…but nothing goes to plan.

Her Great Aunt, Yi Po comes to stay and Lucy has to share a room, not happy, she builds a wall of bookcases and dressers to keep Yi Po out.  When her parents tell her she has to give up basketball to go to Chinese school (on a Saturday), Lucy has had enough. If this isn't enough to deal with Lucy also had to deal with Sloane, a girl at school whose bullying is making life difficult for Lucy.

I found myself identifying with Lucy’s best friend Madison in this book.  Madison is an All American, family came over on the Mayflower, kind of American and I am your 'average family came over from Europe Australian', with no strong cultural heritage to speak of, so for me having the opportunity to be immersed in another language and having a connection with such an amazing culture and history is quite appealing.  That is me as an adult speaking though, and Lucy is 11, and like most 11 year olds all she wants is to be just like everyone else…

I did find myself becoming frustrated with Lucy, but I think that’s the point, she became quite obnoxious in her stubbornness, but as the story  progressed, Lucy began to gain some perspective, and to me she became more likeable again. 

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