Picking up where Namioka's Ties That Bind, Ties That Break left off, this novel opens in 1921 China, where Ailin is about to set sail for America. Ailin's classmate and friend Yanyan, who narrates here, travels to Shanghai to bid her farewell; Eldest Brother and his friend Baoshu serve as Yanyan's chaperones. Baoshu's mixed heritage (a father who served as a Chinese imperial officer and a Manchu mother) offers Namioka an opportunity to explore the mounting tensions in China over beliefs about who can best unite the country. However, the author does not delve deeply enough to give readers a clear sense of the issues at stake. Instead, she concentrates on Yanyan's adjustment to American culture, when the heroine enrolls as a student at Cornell. A romance ignites between Baoshu and Yanyan, who then turns down Baoshu's proposal that she run away with him; later L.H., a fellow Chinese student, also gradually shows signs that he wants more than friendship. Yanyan must decide what she wants for herself and from a partnership. Namioka covers (literally) so much ground (Yanyan's boat trip to America, her cross-country rail trip from Seattle to Cornell, her visit by train to Ailin in San Francisco during her school's Christmas break, etc.) that many of the characters and relationships are fleetingly portrayed rather than fully developed. Some readers may be satisfied with the conclusion, but others may wonder if Yanyan ever fulfills her dream to become a doctor. Ages 12-up. (June) Children's NOTES Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Yanyan, an outspoken 16-year-old Chinese girl living in Nanjing in 1921, dreams of studying Western medicine and becoming a doctor. She has the support of her father, a worldly man who has spent time in Europe and encourages her to think of a career, in an era when most Chinese women think only of marriage. Yanyan has no plans for marriage—until she meets handsome Liang, her brother's friend, who is plotting to restore the Manchu dynasty and wants her to run off with him to be a revolutionary. She is torn between her ambition, her family, and her feelings toward Liang, but decides to go off to America instead to study at Cornell University. The second half of the story deals with her experiences there, as she struggles to adjust to American society, tough university courses, and prejudice against both Chinese and women. Never one to back down in the face of difficulty, Yanyan is determined to succeed despite her loneliness and the hard work involved. This tale of a resolute early feminist and of cultural differences will appeal to fans of historical fiction and of feisty female protagonists. Some martial arts action enlivens the story, and there is some humor here, too. Namioka, the author of other books for young readers, supplies an afterword giving some background on the Manchus, Manchuria, and Manchukuo. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Random House, Delacorte, 200p.,
Sixteen-year-old Yanyan is bright and adventurous, qualities that generally are discouraged in young ladies living in 1921 Nanjing, China. Yanyan's father is especially liberal, however, and Yanyan is free from many of society's restrictions. Her feet are unbound, she knows a bit about the martial arts, she speaks English, and she is allowed to develop a friendship with the handsome Manchurian Liang Baoshu. When Baoshu pleads with her to run away with him, Yanyan is tempted sorely by the romantic adventure, but it would mean sacrificing her dream to become a doctor. Refreshingly, Yanyan decides that she would rather take up her father's offer and go to medical school at Cornell University, although such a choice would mean leaving Baoshu forever. Yanyan's best friend is Allin, the protaganist in Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (Delacorte, 1999/VOYA December 1999), and readers are treated to a continuation of her story in this novel. Namioka has entertained readers with her earlier books, such as Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear (Joy Street Books, 1992), that depict the humorous tribulations of Chinese immigrants to the United States. She again demonstrates the tremendous cultural and linguistic differences between the two countries that were more evident in the 1920s before the homogenizing effect of mass communication. Young adults who recently have immigrated surely will enjoy this book. It also educates others on Chinese history and culture and the courage it takes to travel so far away from home. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Delacorte, 197p,
Gr 7-10 As a young girl growing up in Nanjing, China, only 10 years after the revolution of 1911 that overthrew the Manchu's Qing dynasty, Yanyan always had a tendency to do the unexpected. She was loud and boisterous, interested in the martial arts her brothers practiced, and in studying medicine. Now a teen, she begs her father to let her travel to Shanghai, he agrees, on the condition that her oldest brother and his friend accompany her. The friend, Liang Baoshu, is strikingly handsome, adventurous, and obviously interested in her. When his involvement with a movement to restore the Manchu rulers requires that he leave the city, he asks her to run away with him, but she chooses instead to accept her father's offer to send her to the United States to study. Cornell University is indeed a world away, and Yanyan, now called Sheila, finds it hard to adjust to new foods, cold weather, and difficult course work. Many Americans are open about their prejudices, and not all of the other Chinese students are welcoming. But Sheila perseveres, finding success in her difficult course work and winning a new friend who would allow her to be her strong self in ways Baoshu could not. Namioka has perfectly captured the English of someone still learning its nuances, and an afterword explains the political settings. The gentle romance, the unusual historical setting, and the strong female character each contribute to the book's appeal, but its special strength is the voice of the narrator. -Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A determined Chinese girl pursues her dream of a medical education by leaving her family and attending a university in America in the early 1920s. A companion to Namioka's Ties that Bind, Ties that Break (1999), this opens with Yanyan's journey to Shanghai to bid farewell to the earlier novel's heroine as she embarks for San Francisco. The journey sets up the character's central conflict: even as she envies her friend for her opportunities, she finds herself attracted to a charismatic friend of her Elder Brother's, and finds that she must choose between her personal ambitions and her admirer. A melodramatic plot twist aids her choice-her admirer turns out to be part of a conspiracy to return the Manchu emperor to the throne-and off she goes to Cornell, where she encounters cultural difficulties aplenty. While the first-person narration is burdened by awkward historical summaries ("After our defeat in the Second Opium War, various countries discovered how weak China really was"), Yanyan's struggles in the US are compelling. A patronizing student adviser tries to steer her toward home economics and away from physics ("Here at Cornell, we teach young ladies all the womanly arts in order to make them proper wives and mothers"). At the Chinese laundry, she is mistaken for an employee; when corrected, the customer says, "Well, I'll be doggoned! I did hear there were Chinks at the university." Despite these narrative flaws, Yanyan emerges as a highly sympathetic character for whom the reader will find herself rooting as she picks her way through her internal doubts and the obstacles set before her by both Chinese and American cultures. An author's note provides some background on a particularlyexciting and turbulent time in Chinese history. (Fiction. 12-16)