Dragon Chicaby May-lee Chai
Nea, a Chinese Cambodian teenager, has survived the Khmer Rouge only to land in poverty in Texas. Her small family struggles to get by when a miracle occurs. Wealthy and mysterious, Auntie and Uncle write to say they are alive and well, running a Chinese restaurant in Nebraska. As Nea helps pack Hefty bags with meager belongings for a journey into the American Midwest, little does she know their miracle has a dark side. Soon family secrets, small town resentments, lies born of wartime and a forbidden love threaten to tear them apart forever. In the tradition of Holden Caulfield and Scout Finch, Nea must fight to save her family...and herself.
"In Chai's coming-of-age novel, 11-year-old Nea, who survived the Khmer Rouge with her scrappy mother, beautiful older sister, and younger siblings, leaves Texas for Nebraska to work in the Chinese restaurant owned by her auntie and uncle. But the miracle she'd hoped for is crushed upon arrival: auntie and uncle, once wealthy, are now struggling, and the locals are more bigoted than they were in Texas..." –Publishers Weekly
“It is very rare that a coming of age novel transcends its inherent limitations and attains the complex emotional resonance of adult fiction. Dragon Chica does this with great aplomb. The book explores with subtlety and depth the mature, universal issues of identity and connection, but it also retains its direct appeal to younger readers. May-lee Chai has performed a remarkable act of literary magic.” –Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
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Meet the Author
May-lee Chai is the author of five books, including The Girl from Purple Mountain, which was nominated for a National Book Award. She is the recipient of a 2006 NEA Grant in Literature and has an M.A. from Yale in East Asian Studies and a second M.A. in English-Creative Writing from the University of Colorado in Boulder. A former reporter for the Associated Press, she is currently a Chinese translator for PEN American Center.
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Gorgeous writing, moving story! I really loved the novel "Dragon Chica," which tells the story of a Cambodian American refugee girl growing up in Texas and Nebraska. I learned a lot about Cambodian culture, but the scenes with the family are what really stuck with me. The characters are vivid and real, flawed but fascinating. The main character, Nea, is brave and tender-hearted, trying to protect her family and help them to overcome the many obstacles they face despite their not always kind treatment of her.