Books, Gardens, Dogs
Bitter Melon - Cara Chow Every once in awhile I come across a book that really hits me emotionally and Cara Chow's Bitter Melon is one of those books. It filled me with pleasure, a bit of sadness and a some triumph. The characters just jump off the page and the dialogue just flows perfectly. This story is set in the 1980's but you would only pick up on the decade once or twice since the story is really quite contemporary. I loved how the author took on such themes as tradition and duty versus independence and individualism. Frances finds herself in that in between world of family values and that teen need for independence. She is expected to become a doctor and support her mother after graduation. These plans go awry when Frances ends up in a speech class rather than the Berkley worthy class of calculus through a mistake. When Frances finds a natural talent for public speaking and is encouraged by her teacher, Ms. Taylor, she comes out of her subservient role and truly finds her own voice.There are some moments in the book where you will find yourself weeping for the abuse that Frances endures from her mother, Gracie. Gracie is set on raising Frances in a traditional Chinese way and only seeks monetary success for her daughter with no other options. If you have read anything about the Tiger Mother controversy lately, this book will give you the point of view from a child's perspective and how hard it is to live up to the expectations of the parents.Gracie's best friend, Nellie and her daughter, Theresa try to calm down Gracie and help Frances through the abuse they see but can't truly act on since it is acceptable for the immigrant Chinese culture and for that matter most immigrant cultures through out history. Theresa truly grows with the help she receives from Frances' friendship and Nellie is just a fun romp with her enthusiasm for life. This is a book that can be enjoyed by all family members and should spark some important discussions about teenage life.

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