Published by Allen & Unwin on February 2, 2021
Genres: Middle Grade, Fiction, Contemporary
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What I feel most days is that nothing is evergoing to change. That my life won’t even start,and that I’ll be stuck like this forever.
Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrantswhose move to the lucky country has proven to be notso lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whosemum and dad are also struggling immigrants — bothdream of escape from their unhappy circumstances,and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selectivehigh school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, itwill take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness toget herself and Henry through the storm that follows.
Tiger Daughter is a novel that will grab holdof you and not let go.
Tiger Daughter is a story of Chinese immigrants, who do what they can do survive after migrating to Australia. Whether it is coping with their crushing pride, unspoken disappointments from losing their previous stature in life, to their children coping with bullying and being different while just trying to live, it covers a lot in a short time.
While touted as the Western dream, it’s also a loss of everything you were comfortable with at home – your support network, your families, your degrees that can’t be used and your careers that can’t be continued upon moving to Australia. I really felt for Wen and Henry’s parents, who do what they can with their limited English skills and struggling finances to feed their school aged children.
I want to ask her if there is a different way to be. Where you can take all the good things about what you are, what’s expected of you, and leave behind all the stuff that holds you back. But I’m afraid of the answer; I’m afraid of being so disapppointed that it will feel like my heart is being ripped out, so I don’t ask.
The story is told through Wen’s lens, who, from the product of her parents, suffer from abuse, strict boundaries and tense family circumstances. She describes a life of never being able to be yourself, of not having anything to laugh or smile about, and when her father’s mood swings could lead to disastrous consequences for her family. What Wen describes, is a story of domestic abuse, but one using control, boundaries, threats and verbal intimidation. It’s completely heartbreaking and harrowing to see, but when you paint the circumstances that her parents have gone through, it’s one that sounds completely realistic.
“We’re comets…we’re going to burn our way out of here and leave a trail that people can see.”
Then there’s Wen’s friend Henry, who is the most intelligent, studious kid in the class, but he’s subject to bullying from his classmates due to caring too much about his grades. Despite being the smartest kid in school, Henry’s struggle with the English language is clear, especially when it’s so different from Chinese, which he’s fluent in. Tragedy strikes in Henry’s family, which leads to Wen and her mother to slowly push the very narrow boundaries they have, in order to provide care for his family. This becomes the catalyst for change in Wen’s family, and a glimmer of hope and even laughter in her life.
Tiger Daughter struck a chord at me, not only because of the relatable story of growing up as a Chinese immigrant in Australia, but also because of the multi-faceted approach it takes to telling Wen and Henry’s story. From language difficulties, to not being able to go to parties, to struggling family circumstances and finances, and strict boundaries, Wen and Henry have a lot to navigate on top of going to school. While targeted at middle grade readers, I think everyone will benefit from reading Tiger Daughter and understanding the challenges of an Australian life for immigrant families.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy!
Tiger Daughter is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99 or from The Book Depository.
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