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Joan, Bobby, and Emily quickly become aware of how hard this will be as each day brings new temptations of sledding, playing in the snow, and spending time with friends. Joan is particularly intrigued by the glamorous Victoria Barrington and her father, who have a mysterious past and are so unlike her own family. But a crisis forces Joan to gain a new understanding of her parents and her heritage, and she must look to her past in order to help her family before it's too late.
Continuing the story of the Lees begun in The Star Fisher, winner of the Christopher Award and the West Virginia Literary Award, Dream Soul is a touching story of love, loyalty, and the importance of family.
Books for the Teen Age 2001 (NYPL)
In 1927, as Christmas approaches, fifteen-year-old Joan Lee hopes to get her parents' permission to celebrate the holiday, one of the problems of belonging to the only Chinese American family in her small West Virginia community.
In winter West Virginia was white. The newly fallen snow covered the streets like the icing on long, long cinnamon buns; and it coated the roofs and windowsills like vanilla frosting. The buildings themselves looked as if they were made of dark gingerbread. In fact, it made the whole street look as if it were just out of the oven, and I was almost surprised that it didn't smell freshly baked too.
When I looked at the snowy landscape, I thought to myself that this is the world that a baby sees--all soft and new'with nothing to poke or hurt you. Snow fills the world with hope again: The rusty rake is painted a shiny white, and the flaking old rooster weathervane is fleshed out plump as a Sunday chicken.
In Ohio, where I was born, the snow had always turned black from the smoke that the locomotive factories threw into the air. But nine months ago we had moved here. Papa thought a laundry in West Virginia would do better than in Ohio. At first we'd had no customers; but the laundry was doing all right now that we had made friends here.
And that had been all right, but I found myself missing even the black Ohio snow. Nothing had fallen all November in West Virginia. Just brown, barren hills and the skeletons of trees and bushes and vines. And it had been cold. But in the first week of December the snow had come--two feet of it. Gazing at all that sugary perfection, I wondered if people as salty and imperfect as us belonged there.
“Joanie,” my little eight-year-old sister, Emily, whined, “hurry up.” She usually saved her complaining for English rather than Chinese.
I turned away from the window.“Hold your horses. The snow will still be there,” I said as I tried to help her get dressed. She kept twitching, though, so it was hard. And of course her stockings were completely wrong.
It was hard to set her to rights, because she kept hopping up and down impatiently, afraid that our ten-year-old brother, Bobby, was having all the fun.
When I had repaired what damage I could, Emily bolted from the room. Her last exhortation of “Hurry” echoed down the hallway. I had barely finished dressing myself when Emily came stomping back into the room.
“Mama says my seams are crooked.” She held up one leg accusingly.
In winter we had to wear horrid woolen socks that reached all the way up the leg and itched like anything.
“They're not my seams,” I corrected her, but I helped her redo them. Rolling one into a tight coil, I slowly unwrapped it up her leg, smoothing and adjusting as I went so that the seams would be straight.
It was always important that we not embarrass the family, and crooked seams would have had everyone thinking we were sloppy. At fifteen, I was responsible for everything.
When I had straightened them out, we marched back downstairs. Papa had rented an old schoolhouse that he had converted into a laundry. We used the lower floor for work and lived upstairs in some of the old classrooms.
As soon as she heard our steps, Mama called us into the big drying room. Clotheslines crisscrossed the room like intricate lace. Shirts and dresses dangled from them like starved ghosts, and the water dripped from them in a perpetual rain. The moisture in the air condensed on my face, making it feel cool and almost clammy.
Papa sat in a chair next to the big stove, trying to get warm. Even though he had a fire crackling in it, he had tried to ward off the cold with red flannel underwear, shirt, knitted vest, wool coat and pants, overcoat and furred cap.
Huddled within his layers of clothing, he looked as wide as a bear. With one mittened hand he lowered from around his mouth the narrow rag that he used as a muffler, and he sipped from a glass of warm milk. Then he quickly covered his face again.
As far as our parents were concerned, there was nothing good about winter. Their misery started with the first drop in the thermometer and did not end until the spring thaw.
I had looked at Miss Lucy's globe once. Our parents had come from a part of China that lies in the tropics, around the same latitude as Mexico. Even so, I didn't think geography was an adequate excuse for hiding indoors all winter.
Mama looked up from her ciphering, which she did with her own system and her own notations. For warmth she had come in here as well while she did the account books. “Let's see,” she said in Chinese.
Dutifully Emily and I turned around for inspection.
When she had finished pivoting, Emily clutched Papa's arm. “Can we go outside now, Papa?”
Papa stared at us in puzzlement, as if he could not understand why anyone would venture voluntarily out into snow. “Mmpf,” he replied through the ragged cotton.
“Please,” Emily coaxed.
Papa relented. “Mmpf,” he said.
Mama couldn't let us go without one last lecture. “Now remember. Behave yourselves. You're the children of a scholar. Don't act like savages.”
We were always having to live up to Papa's reputation--though even if we had been peasants, it would still be important what everyone thought of us. Between Mama and Papa, I felt like everyone was watching and judging us.
“Yes, Mama,” I said quickly. “May we go now?”
Though she still didn't trust us not to disgrace Papa, she grudgingly nodded her head.
“'Bye, Papa,” Emily said.
“Mmpf,” Papa said. Still puzzled by his American-born children, he raised one mittened hand and waved.
When we got outside, we found Bobby already involved in a snowball fight with our landlady, Miss Lucy. In her gray wool coat and brown shawl, she looked like a sparrow hopping about in the snow with almost as much energy as Bobby--though she was seven times his age.Dream Soul. Copyright © by Laurence Yep. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted March 29, 2001
Dream Soul is an outstanding book, full of creativity and surprises. Laurence Yep fills this book with descriptions on every page. I would definately recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.