Yang, Kelly

Finally Seen

(2) 4-6 This contemporary immigrant tale follows a Beijing girl as she reunites with her parents and younger sister in California after five years of separation. Lina Gao, ten, thinks that her father is a successful microbiologist who owns a big house. Reality kicks in when the fifth grader discovers that her father is a farm worker, the family lives in a cramped apartment, and her mother sells bath bombs online in hopes of covering the back rent. Yang does a skillful job in portraying Lina's multitude of emotions. There's the sadness of leaving her grandmother behind in a Chinese nursing home and the isolation and loneliness stemming from language barriers. Issues of racism and class come up when her parents struggle to be paid fairly and to get updates on their green card applications, Lina is teased at school, and a graphic novel with an Asian American protagonist is targeted for censorship. The most poignant scenes occur as Lina slowly removes the "invisible thread" that prevents her from freely expressing herself, especially when ESL teacher Mrs. Ortiz tells her that even though immigrants are "burdened with a lot of guilt," it is important to remember that "your dreams matter. You matter. Never forget that."


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