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.