David Tung lives in an affluent New Jersey town and attends a Saturday Chinese school in New York’s Chinatown. More immediately, he can’t have a girlfriend, say his parents, until he gets into an Ivy League college.
Korean American K-pop star Jessica Jung may have gotten her start as a singer and performer with the hit band Girls’ Generation, but now also has a fashion line and has modeled for make-up lines and magazine covers around the world. Her branding is reaching into film and television. And now she has a debut young adult novel, Shine.
Teens may grimace at the thought of taking SATs, but they have it easy compared with the counterparts in China where millions of children are trained from a young age to succeed in school, all for the one-day gaokao, or university admissions examination. In her new young adult novel, Like Spilled Water—the title of which refers to the notion that daughters are not as valued as sons because they will leave their parents’ home after they marry—Jennie Liu tackles the anxiety and other ramifications centered around this exam.
Orrawin is a 17-year-old high school student who goes by the name Winnie. Her twin older sisters, Bunnisa (Bunny) and Aranee (Ari) are college students at Washington University in St. Louis. Their parents made a mistake by not allowing Bunny and Ari to date in high school.
Iris Weijun Wang is just like any other New Jersey teen. She enjoys shopping, hanging out with friends and spending time with her boyfriend. Her parents are Chinese immigrants who speak English at home and are pretty hands off when it comes to their daughter’s school work and extracurricular activities. But when they learn during Iris’s last semester of high school that she’s about to flunk out and has been rejected from every college she has applied to, Iris’s parents flip out. Her otherwise laid-back father comes up with the perfect solution to teach Iris some responsibility. Off to China she goes.
Jane Austen can take a rest. It’s Tolstoy’s turn.
At the start of Kelly Yang’s debut YA novel, Parachutes, she notes the story includes incidents of sexual harassment and rape. Although Yang has been wanting to write this story for almost two decades, this novel about high school students who move alone to the US while their parents stay back in China couldn’t be better timed. While the concept of parachute students isn’t new—it was pioneered by Hong Kong students in the 1990s—mainland Chinese families have adopted the custom and students from China account for the largest group of international high school students in the US (and, indeed, other countries from Australia to Britain).