American Panda by Gloria Chao

Synopsis: At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Review: This novel reminded me a lot of the novel When Dimple meets Rishi in the idea, but while the story was about Indian culture, American Panda is about Taiwanese one and it was really interesting to discover this story.

Mei has been following her parents’ plans for a very long time. She knows that turning away from it would be very complicated. In fact, she saw that when her brother chose a girl of another nationality, he was disinherited. She tries, as best she can, to comply with their expectations… The problem? It’s that whatever her parents want, she doesn’t want to study to become a doctor. She doesn’t want arranged dates. But how can she make them understand this without becoming the unworthy girl she thinks she will be?

I had a good time with this story. Mei tries her best to please her parents but she realizes that she is just not happy. I was sad to see how torn apart she was by what she wanted and what was expected of her. We realize that some traditions are difficult and complicated to preserve but Mei will have to choose what she is willing to do to have her own choices.

10 thoughts on “American Panda by Gloria Chao

  1. I saw this book around, but yours is the first review I read for it and, I must say, it sounds like a very interesting read. I like reading about different cultures, even if sometimes it’s hard to digest things like her parents here -_-

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