Monday, September 14, 2020

"Prairie Lotus" by Linda Sue Park


I quite liked this book.  In fact, I wish it had been a bit longer.  That's always good, right?  To not be hoping the book will end soon, but hoping it will go on a bit longer?

Hanna and her father move to a new town out in the middle of the Great Plains.  Her father wants to open a dry goods store specializing in fabrics and sewing notions.  Hanna hopes to add dressmaking to the business, as she learned dressmaking from her mother and, even though she is only fourteen, she is already quite good at it.

Hanna also dreams of attending school in their new town.  But that's going to be difficult because Hanna's mother was Chinese.  And even though Hanna's father is white, most of the townsfolk view her with suspicion, distaste, or even animosity.  Because Hanna looks different, they assume she must be different.

While Hanna fights for the right to attend school and earn her diploma, she also works to convince her father to allow her to be an active part in his new business.  And, while doing both of those things, she also seeks to make sense of her identity.  Is she more Chinese, like the mother she has lost back in California, or more white, like the father who never quite understands her the way she'd like?  Or is she simply her own person?

This book ends on a very hopeful note, which I was happy for, but it's not unrealistic.  Hanna's problems aren't all solved by the end of the story, and she needs great courage to continue facing the future.  But by the end, she has made friends and begun forging her own place in the community.  The ending did feel abrupt to me, though.  I expected, and would have appreciated, about one more chapter's-worth of denouement.

Particularly Good Bits:

A brand-new town, equal measures of promise and uncertainty, like the thin April sunshine in which it stood (p. 13).

It seemed to Hanna that there were always a hundred reasons for disliking people and not nearly as many for liking them (p. 42).

She could only whisper, caught between a smile on her lips and a lump in her throat (p. 135).

Tea with friends is a feast for the spirit (p. 242).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-10.  It deals with heavy topics such as racism, though it handles them gently.  But there is also an incident in which a drunken man tries to molest Hanna, touching her in ways she is uncomfortable with and clearly intending to do much more.  She escapes, but the experience haunts her for quite a while.  That sets this clearly in the Middle Grade camp for me, not Junior Fiction.

12 comments:

  1. I skimmed this one in the library, I couldn't quite make myself focus on it (this often happens to me with MG fiction, I can't focus). From what I saw of it, though, I was impressed.

    I read the author's note in the back and it really gave me food for thought: how as a child, she read the Little House books, but always knew that because of her race, in real life she'd never have been accepted into the Ingalls' community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katie, how interesting. I often find MG fiction easier to focus on than a lot of adult books. Not sure why. Anyway, definitely a thought-provoking book in so many ways.

      Delete
  2. I'm going to look for this one at my library, at least for my high schooler. Not so sure about my 12-year old, unless we read it together.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I read this earlier in the summer and loved it! The creative story was so nifty to me. I see what you mean by it ending abruptly, I had to reread the last chapter a couple of times because I just couldn't remember how it ended, even though I finished it the day before! But as you said, better that than wishing it was over sooner. I hope to review it soon, and hey, you and I saved some of the same lines!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MC, I'm so glad you've read it too! And how fun that we both liked some of the same lines enough to save them :-)

      Delete
  4. The cover is stunning, and the premise sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out sometime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bethi, isn't it pretty! The book inside matches it so well, too. Definitely one to try to find, especially if you like books about pioneers or learning about how different cultures dealt with each other in the past.

      Delete
  5. It sounds like this would make a really good movie. I think it's really underestimated, and little-understood, how multi-ethnic American pioneers, and kids in one-room schoolhouses, were. (Although a lot of people might have kept their ethnic background secret, where that was possible.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John Smith, it probably would! And yes, our modern perceptions of the Old West and the pioneer world have been very skewed by Hollywood, which presented it as almost exclusively populated by white people. Which was not the case at all. Which is why I'm trying to include diverse casts in my own books.

      Delete
  6. This sounds like an important book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Olivia, I think it is. I am a fan of books that challenge preconceived or mistaken ideas, especially about history. And of books that fill in gaps in our historical consciousness. This one does so without pushing a big agenda or getting preachy.

      Delete

What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)