Excerpt from The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Silence that Binds Us

by Joanna Ho

The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho X
The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 448 pages

    Dec 26, 2023, 448 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
David Bahia
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About this Book

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My mom has her own personal arsenal of silence, and she wields it like the Force, bending me to her will. Her silence can be a flashing yellow light, warning me to proceed with caution, or a magnifying glass she uses to study me like I'm some kind of alien species. Most often, her silence is a hippo, pregnant with disappointment. She can brandish that hippo at me while gracefully hosting a dinner party, chatting up guests, and offering them tea.

Which is what she did on the night Danny died.

Just as the Wus arrived for dinner, Danny bounded down the stairs with all the grace of a six-foot water buffalo in basketball shorts, bellowing, "May-May! Have you seen my Star Wars socks?" He froze when he saw the Wus, then burst out laughing. "Everyone loves Star Wars, right?" Then he whipped around and ran back up to his room. He was extra scatterbrained his last few months, which was a little weird.

My mom emerged from the kitchen, perfectly pressed, with pearls of steam glistening in her hair. She just shook her head and laughed.

Her eyes flitted over to me, taking in my usual ripped jeans and hair, a cinnamon roll splat on top of my head. I was wearing my nicest hoodie, but that didn't stop my mom's right eyebrow from twitching, though her smile never wavered as she greeted our guests.

She didn't say anything to me.

I glanced at Celeste, who of course looked perfect. Her hair glistened in a silky, straight waterfall down her back. She wore a loose black dress that hit modestly above her knees, the shapeless kind that would look like a potato sack on me but made her look like a model. Celeste had a figure made for qipao: slender, tiny really, with just the slightest suggestions of curves in all the right places.

When my mom greeted her, Celeste smiled, dipped her head, and said, "Āyí." Her Mandarin didn't have the telltale ABC accent; it sounded like she grew up in Taiwan.

Five minutes later, Danny came back down the stairs, dressed this time and still chuckling. "Hi, Uncle. Hi, Āyí. Hey, Celeste."

Pink cherry blossoms bloomed on Celeste's cheeks and I rolled my eyes. You and every other girl at school, I thought. My mom made a sucking sound against her teeth and cut her eyes over at me.

While my dad herded everyone into the dining room, I slipped upstairs and changed into a pair of skinny high-waisted jeans and a cream-colored cardigan with lacy detail on the sleeves. My mom got it for me a while ago and I hadn't even taken the tags off. Because, not a hoodie. I brushed my hair, but it stuck out in haywire angles from being twisted up all day, so I tied it back up carefully, attempting to wrap it into a neat knot.

When I walked back into the dining room, tugging at the edge of my cardigan, Danny coughed into his noodles and arched his eyebrow at me. I gave him a death stare and he stifled a smile by blowing determinedly on his steaming bowl of niú ròu miàn.

My mom set a bowl in front of me.

It was too hot to eat, but too tempting to wait. The meat was so tender it melted as it touched my tongue.

In between bites and burned mouths, everyone praised my mom for the beef noodle soup. She tried not to look too pleased and said, "It's only okay. I forgot to make the suāncài so it's not as good today." Then she changed the subject. "How's school, Celeste?"

Celeste looked up, chopsticks frozen in the act of depositing noodles into her mouth. "It's good, Āyí."

Auntie Wu jumped in. "I heard you did very well on your math test last week, May."

"Not as well as Celeste," my mom said. "I heard she got the top score!"

Celeste shifted uncomfortably. I don't know where my mom gets her information, but she has her ways, and she takes a special interest in math because she's an engineer. It's just another reason for her to summon that pregnant hippo. Math is whatever to me; I'd rather be writing.

Excerpted from The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho. Copyright © 2022 by Joanna Ho. Excerpted by permission of HarperTeen. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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