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Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)
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Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)

4.7 14
by Justina Chen Headley
 

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"Getting her fortune told by a Taiwanese 'belly-button grandmother' (who feels up her navel) instead of attending the spring dance is just one of the joys of being Patty Ho, a covertly snarky 'hapa' (half Asian, half white) struggling with her dual heritage. Patty's domineering mother is determined to make her a good Taiwanese girl. Gangly Patty, no 'China doll,'

Overview

"Getting her fortune told by a Taiwanese 'belly-button grandmother' (who feels up her navel) instead of attending the spring dance is just one of the joys of being Patty Ho, a covertly snarky 'hapa' (half Asian, half white) struggling with her dual heritage. Patty's domineering mother is determined to make her a good Taiwanese girl. Gangly Patty, no 'China doll,' longs to be white like her long-gone father...readers will find a compelling narrative, and a spunky, sympathetic heroine. This book should enjoy wide appeal." -VOYA

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Headley makes an impressive debut with this witty, intimate novel about a self-described "bizarrely tall Freakinstein cobbled together from Asian and white DNA," trying to find her niche. Patty Ho, the 14-year-old narrator feels conspicuously out of place whether she is socializing with her white classmates or among her mother's Taiwanese friends. Headley immediately conveys her heroine's sense of humor when she opens with a "Belly-Button Grandmother" who tells Patty's future by probing her belly. When the woman predicts that Patty will marry a white man, Patty's distraught, divorced mother-who would like nothing more than for her daughter to meet a nice Taiwanese boy-sends Patty to math camp at Stanford University. Despite some misgivings, Patty there finds adventure, romance and a level of freedom and acceptance that she has never experienced before. Guided by her outspoken Asian roommate, a compassionate counselor and an open-minded aunt who lives near the campus, Patty begins to view herself in a new light-not as an oddball, but rather as someone who has inherited the best of two different worlds. Through lively, first-person narrative punctuated with creative word play, the author encapsulates Patty's ups and downs and traces her heroine's emotional maturation during the course of an eventful summer. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Getting her fortune told by a Taiwanese "belly-button grandmother" (who feels up her navel) instead of attending the spring dance is just one of the joys of being Patty Ho, a covertly snarky "hapa" (halfAsian, halfwhite) struggling with her dual heritage. Patty's domineering mother is determined to make her a good Taiwanese girl. Gangly Patty, no "china doll," longs to be white like her long-gone father. When her mother mandates Stanford University's math camp, Patty resents being forced down this stereotypically "Asian" path, but being spit upon by a racist bully makes going anywhere better than staying home. To her utter astonishment, though, she loves Stanford. She gains some kickass Asian girlfriends, gets her heart broken by a Chinese boy, gets in some trouble, learns about her mother's past and sacrifices, and finally comes to appreciate the complexity of being hapa. Fans of rapier-wit heroines like Georgia Nicolson will lap up Patty's glib humor and lively narration, which infuse the story with energy. Not every reader will be charmed by her style, though, particularly her relentless, often irritating barrage of one-liners, which range from clever ("Stanford is Club Pre-Med") to juvenile ("Mama's wok and roll band"). Although humor is obviously Patty's way of distancing herself from painful feelings, it too often succeeds in also distancing the reader, masking the depth of a powerful story about identity and race. Neverthless those readers seeing beyond the zingers will find a compelling narrative, and a spunky, sympathetic heroine. The book should enjoy wide appeal. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest inthe subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Little Brown, 224p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Rebecca C. Moore
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-This novel is a mostly successful exploration of teen "hapa" (half white, half Asian) life and the struggles unique to those who live between two distinct cultures. High school sophomore Patty Ho feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere: in her family, she is a distant second to her older brother; she sometimes feels out of place among her white friends; and she is decidedly concerned about fitting in at the math camp that she's getting ready to attend. When she arrives at Stanford University, however, Patty starts to see her situation a bit differently. The good-looking Asian boy she meets on the first day just might meet her strict mother's approval, and her new roommate is someone who, Patty notes, "breaks all the rules." Just when she's starting to enjoy math camp, her domineering mother arrives and, convinced that Patty is spending more time having fun than studying, threatens to bring her home. There are some funny and thoughtful moments in the narrative as the teen undergoes significant changes in her feelings about herself and her family. The first 75 pages set up her situation at home and at school; they are both funny and telling. However, some readers might be disappointed because they can't see Patty back in her "real world," and how her life has changed. In spite of these drawbacks, Headley's voice is a new and much-needed one that shows great promise.-Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A tumble of words flows out of Patty Ho as she tries to figure out how to be 15, and half white, half Taiwanese, hapa, says her buddy Jasmine, the "Asian-ator." The gorgeous Jasmine is one of the friends she makes at Stanford's math summer camp, SUMaC, where she's sent, kicking and screaming, by the mother she's trying to escape. Patty doesn't quite know who she is, or who her white father was, or why her mother is so controlling, so humorless or so bent on embarrassing her. Brian, her brilliant math surfer dude TA, and Stu, source of first kiss and first heartache, allow her some enlightenment, but so do her mother's long-estranged artist sister and a box of family photographs that Patty's never seen. Through it all, Patty never loses her nervy bounce or her need to tell it all as it's happening. Great voice from a very promising debut. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316011310
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Series:
A Justina Chen Novel Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,284,300
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.75(d)
Lexile:
950L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies)


By Justina Chen Headley

Little, Brown Young Readers

Copyright © 2007 Justina Chen Headley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316011310


Chapter One

Belly-Button Grandmother

While every other freshman is at the Spring Fling tonight, I have a date with an old lady whose thumb is feeling up my belly button.

I turn my head to the side and catch a whiff of mothballs and five-spice powder on Belly-button Grandmother's stained silk tunic and baggy black pants. At this moment, Janie and Laura are dancing in the gym that's been transformed into a tropical paradise for the last all-school dance of the year. Me, I'm stretched out on this plastic-covered sofa with my T-shirt pushed up to my nonexistent chest and my pants pulled down to my boy-straight hips.

"You gonna get in big accident," announces Belly-button Grandmother in her accented English, still choppy after living in Seattle for over fifty years. She smacks her lips tight together, which wrinkles her face even more, so that she looks like a preserved plum. The fortune-teller closes her eyes and her thumb presses deeper into my belly button.

"When you fifteen," she says. A bead of sweat forms on her forehead like she can feel my future pain.

I muffle a snort, Yeah, right. Considering my life is nothing but school, homework, and Mama, broken with intermittentinsult-slinging with my brother, there's hardly any opportunity for me to get in a Big Accident.

"Aiya!" mutters Belly-button Grandmother, on the verge of another dire prediction.

If my mom wanted my future read, why couldn't she have found a tarot reader? I'm sure somewhere in the state of Washington there's a Mandarin-speaking, future-reading tarot lady. Or a palmist who'd gently run her finger across my hand. Someone who would say, My goodness, what a long happy life you're going to have.

But no, my future is being channeled through my belly button.

As soon as Mama heard from The Gossip Lady in our potluck group about Belly-button Grandmother, she packed me up and hauled us both down the freeway. This is my mom, the woman who drives only in a five-mile radius around our home, a whole hour south of Seattle. The woman who has driven on a highway maybe twenty times ever. The same woman who looks at maps the way I look at her Chinese newspapers: unreadable.

Belly-button Grandmother's bone-dry thumb presses harder into my stomach like she wants to dig right through me. If she presses harder, I won't have a future. I wince. She scowls. I would say something profound like, Hey, that hurts! if I wasn't afraid that the old lady was going to change my future.

Belly-button Grandmother sighs like my life is going to be filled with even more disaster than it is now with this Mount Fuji?sized pimple on my chin.

"You gonna have three children. Too many," she pronounces. For a brief moment, she releases the pressure on my belly and stares down at me with her cavern-dark eyes. "You want me take away one?"

I want to say, Get real. How can I even think about conceiving three kids, much less discuss family planning, when I can't even get a date to my school dance?

Belly-button Grandmother's frown deepens as if she read my insignificant thoughts. Her thumb hovers over my stomach. Quickly, I shake my head. I don't need my mom to translate the look on the fortune-teller's face: Oh, you making a big mistake.

Now I turn my face to the side so I don't have to look at Belly-button Grandmother and her disapproval anymore. Above the couch, white paint is peeling off the wall next to the picture of Buddha, his smooth, flat face serene. I wonder what other predictions he's heard Belly-button Grandmother make and whether he's having himself a good belly laugh about how the closest I've ever gotten to Nirvana is winning a sixth-grade essay contest about why I loved being an American. My field trip to Nirvana was a short one. Steve Kosanko didn't see me as anywhere close to being a true red-white-and-blue American. The day after I won the contest, he cornered me at recess and serenaded me with a round of "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these." As an encore, he held me down in the mud like it was some squelchy rice paddy where my dirty knees belonged.

Another sniff, this time of incense, makes me want to gag. I need to sneeze, but rub my nose hard instead. A sneeze would probably contract my abs, and then, God, my whole life course could be altered.

What I really want to know, desperately need to know, is whether Mark Scranton, Mr. Hip and Cool at Lincoln High, will ever notice me. Well, technically, he does notice me. I did write his campaign speech, after all. But it's too much to hope that I'll actually get a chance to date him, not with Mama's no-dating-until-college edict (strike one), Mark being a white guy (strike two) and me being a bizarrely tall Freakinstein cobbled together from Asian and white DNA (strike three). I'm out before I've even scooted off the bench.

So a more realistic miracle that I'll take to go, please, is an Honors English essay, one that needs to be started and finished this weekend. The same essay that the rest of the class has worked on for nearly the entire year.

I don't need a miracle, tarot reader, palmist, or even a Bellybutton Grandmother to tell me what my mom is doing out in the waiting room. She's praying to Buddha: "Please let my daughter marry a rich Taiwanese doctor." But then, in an act of practicality, she amends her prayer: "A Taiwanese businessman would be acceptable. Acceptable but not ideal."

I would've settled for an acceptable but not ideal date to my Spring Fling.

Belly-button Grandmother yanks her thumb out of my belly button and calls sharply, "Ho Mei-Li!"

The door opens immediately. Mama's face tightens as she peers accusingly at me. Her permed hair is a damp halo around her furrowed brow. She glances at me and speaks in a rapid Mandarin so that I can't follow what they're saying.

I tug my T-shirt down and sit up. Who needs a translator when I see my mother's frown and the shake of her head as Belly-button Grandmother chatters?

"Be-gok lan?" Mama says, slipping into Taiwanese in her shock.

Belly-button Grandmother nods once, solemnly, even though she doesn't understand Taiwanese. Whatever the language, I have no problems divining what's being predicted here. According to my navel, I am going to end up with a white guy.

Mama glares at me: Oh, you making a big mistake.

I walk to the window overlooking the International District, all crowds of black heads and neon lights. And I'm surprised that I just want to go home. Not out to my favorite Chinese restaurant, not even to the dance, but to my bedroom.

I touch my belly button. Maybe there is magic in there after all.

I know what I'd wish for.

As Mama and Belly-button Grandmother confer about my life, I rub my stomach three times for good luck, just as if I were a gold statue of a big-bellied Buddha.

Then I wish to be white.



Continues...


Excerpted from Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley Copyright © 2007 by Justina Chen Headley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Justina Chen grew up near Buffalo, NY and San Francisco. After attending Stanford University she spent time in New York and Sydney, Australia before settling near Seattle, Washington, where she currently lives with her two children. Her first book, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), was a Book Sense pick, and her second novel, Girl Overboard, won praise from Olympic Gold Medalist and fellow snowboarder Hannah Teter. Her third novel, a gorgeously written story about a teen's quest for beauty, North of Beautiful, was critically acclaimed with starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.

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Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
If Patricia "Patty" Yi-Phen Ho had just one wish, she knows exactly what it would be. To be white. Full-out, red-white-and-blue, all-American, totally Caucasian white. Not the half-and-half mixture that she is now, with an overbearing Taiwanese mother and a long-gone Caucasian father. Not an Amazon-tall mishmash of ancestries that leave her looking like an overgrown Asian teenager or a really tanned white one. Just plain old, blend-into-the-crowd white.

When her mom drags her to a fortune-teller who gets her information from your bellybutton rather than a crystal ball, Patty knows she's in trouble. The "you're going to have three children" prediction is a little ludicrous, given the fact she can't even get a boyfriend. But what really freaks her out--not to mention sends her mother into a fit of unintelligible Taiwanese--is the fact that, according to bellybutton lady, Patty is destined to end up with a white guy.

For Patty, that works just fine. For her mother, not so good. If her mom had her way, Patty would never get within twenty feet of a white guy, never mind date one. No, her mom wants what she didn't get herself--a marriage to a nice, respectable, rich Taiwanese doctor. Or, if there are no doctors available, a businessman would be acceptable. Never mind what Patty wants, which at this moment is knowing if the hottest guy at school, Mark Scranton, will ever notice her.

Stunned into yet more lectures about life as a poor Taiwanese girl, Patty's mother decides that this summer, instead of lounging around and possibly getting a part-time job, Patty will attend math camp at Stanford. Since her older brother, Abe, is busy "preparing" for his upcoming attendance at Harvard, he's no help to get her out of this bind. So Patty sets off to camp, resigned to hanging out with geeks.

Except math camp turns out to be not as bad as she'd thought. There's some really good-looking guys there, guys with brains. Like Stu, who blesses her with her first kiss. And might possibly end up breaking her heart. For Patty, this summer could end up teaching her a whole lot more than math. Things like what it's like to really be American, and learning to love who you are. Because there are guys out there who can love a hapa girl for who she is--if she'll just learn to love herself first.

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH is a great read for anyone who has ever had trouble discovering their identity, or for someone looking to find out how it feels to be different. A real winner!
book-beauty More than 1 year ago
this was a good book.it made me laugh and helped me understand a few issues in america.i loved talking about this book with my friends.
dholland08 More than 1 year ago
The main character in this novel was Patty Ho, a half Caucasian, half Taiwanese fifteen year old girl. I could relate to her, being bi-racial myself, and understand how she felt confused and out of place. Patty isn't comfortable in her own skin, because she doesn't fit in with the Aisans and she sticks out like a sore thumb in her mostly white populated high school. Her mother is strict, favoring her older brother, Abe, who is headed for Harvard University. Her friends don't understand the weird "Chinesey" parts of her life and she got an Incomplete on her truth statement for Honors English. A racist student at her school harasses her and she misses her school dance when her mother takes her to get her fortune read- via her bellybutton. Her mother is upset when the fortune teller predicts that Patty will date a white guy, her mother's greatest fear. So it's like a blessing and a curse when Patty gets to escape her problems at home by going to math camp at Stanford University. But still, she doesn't want to be good at math and fall into the Aisan genius category and she definitely doesn't want to spend a month hanging out with geeks. Soon, Patty actually finds that she likes camp and life for her starts looking up. Justina Chen Headley's voice was funny and honest, and the reader was inside Patty's head, hearing the thoughts she wasn't brave enough to say out loud. For awhile there I thought this novel was your typical YA comedy/romance novel, entertaining but bordering on mediocre. But the twists towards the end proved me wrong. There were some good lessons here, if somewhat dumbed down by Patty's dry humor. This was a novel of one relatable, likable heroine finding her niche in life and crossing racial barriers. While not all the elements of the story were original, Headley's voice was fresh and funny. Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) left me with a satisfying ending and a desire to read more by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great. All Patty Ho wants to be is 100% Asian or 100% White. She overcomes racism and stereotypes and learns she is who she is and should look at herself as a whole.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have a signed copy of Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) and it's a keeper! Patty Ho tells her story in a smart, fast-ride style that hooked me on page one. Who wouldn't be hooked when the story starts with Patty's fortune being told by a 'Bellybutton Grandmother'. Justina Chen Headley tells the truth in this story from the fresh opening to the satisfying conclusion. I recommend it to anyone wanting a clear-eyed view into teen life. And if you're a writer, it¿s a good idea to read it more than once to study Justina Chen Headley's feisty and wholly original prose.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If Patricia 'Patty' Yi-Phen Ho had just one wish, she knows exactly what it would be. To be white. Full-out, red-white-and-blue, all-American, totally Caucasian white. Not the half-and-half mixture that she is now, with an overbearing Taiwanese mother and a long-gone Caucasian father. Not an Amazon-tall mishmash of ancestries that leave her looking like an overgrown Asian teenager or a really tanned white one. Just plain old, blend-into-the-crowd white. When her mom drags her to a fortune-teller who gets her information from your bellybutton rather than a crystal ball, Patty knows she's in trouble. The 'you're going to have three children' prediction is a little ludicrous, given the fact she can't even get a boyfriend. But what really freaks her out--not to mention sends her mother into a fit of unintelligible Taiwanese--is the fact that, according to bellybutton lady, Patty is destined to end up with a white guy. For Patty, that works just fine. For her mother, not so good. If her mom had her way, Patty would never get within twenty feet of a white guy, never mind date one. No, her mom wants what she didn't get herself--a marriage to a nice, respectable, rich Taiwanese doctor. Or, if there are no doctors available, a businessman would be acceptable. Never mind what Patty wants, which at this moment is knowing if the hottest guy at school, Mark Scranton, will ever notice her. Stunned into yet more lectures about life as a poor Taiwanese girl, Patty's mother decides that this summer, instead of lounging around and possibly getting a part-time job, Patty will attend math camp at Stanford. Since her older brother, Abe, is busy 'preparing' for his upcoming attendance at Harvard, he's no help to get her out of this bind. So Patty sets off to camp, resigned to hanging out with geeks. Except math camp turns out to be not as bad as she'd thought. There's some really good-looking guys there, guys with brains. Like Stu, who blesses her with her first kiss. And might possibly end up breaking her heart. For Patty, this summer could end up teaching her a whole lot more than math. Things like what it's like to really be American, and learning to love who you are. Because there are guys out there who can love a hapa girl for who she is--if she'll just learn to love herself first. NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH is a great read for anyone who has ever had trouble discovering their identity, or for someone looking to find out how it feels to be different. A real winner!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is soo touching..Patty is so deep and the way she develops during the whole book is briliant..This author brings romance, exceptance, and relationships all in one..I LOVE IT..def. one of my faves!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. It's definitely one of the best books that i ever read. I would recommend this to anyone. This book is a page-turner and i love how the character grows by the time the story ends. Patty Ho is one super hapa girl!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Justina Chen Hadley really knows how to pull at the heartstrings while making witty statements. Patty induced my tears time and time again. Truth:This book is really a spectacular piece of writing...the tissues in my trashcan are a living proof of that. Patty takes you into the world of a teenager who doesn't feel like she fits in but learns to accept herself wholly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truth: This is a good book. Patty Ho, a fifteen year old hapa from Washington state gets her belly button read by an elderly woman on the night of the Spring Fling Dance where she discovers that not only will her heart be broken, but also, she will end up with a white guy. Her mother, Ho Mei Li, angered by the fortune, then sends Patty off to SuMac, a math camp at Stanford University. There, Patty discovers that being a hapa is okay and also, the truth behind herself and her mother. Truth: I loved this book because I've felt exactly like Patty numerous times in my own hapa life. Justina Chen Headley is a remarkable writer and lets us in on Patty's life as if she were our best friend. I can't express in words what kinds of emotions this book made me feel. I just hope that all of you will have the chance to read it.