Min's thematically rich debut set in an indeterminate
point sometime in the late '60s or early '70s explores coming of age,
definitions of beauty, and the trials of growing up between two cultures.
Isa's story opens with her as a patient in the pediatric burns unit of Albany
hospital, New York following a fire that killed her parents and destroyed their
house. How she got there comprises the rest of the story, which consists
of a swirl of adolescent angst, failures of communication between parents and
child, racial prejudice and a rather too graphic affair with another "outsider"
- an albino boy by the name of Hero.
Like a teenager's emotions, the plot is a little erratic at times. Nevertheless, Min ably explores and expresses the dilemma faced by many second-generation children, particularly of Asian origin, whose parents came to America in search of the American Dream but, when raising their own children, find themselves caught between their new world and the cultural mores they grew up with. Min also illuminates a universal truth - that all of us are to an extent "second-generation" children, because we're all born into a secondhand world, "what is novel to us is only so because we're newborn"; and each of us must find our own place in this hand-me-down society.
This review was originally published in November 2006, and has been updated for the February 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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