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Yours Turly, Shirley: 02/14/08

Yours Turly Shirley

Yours Turly, Shirley is the story of Shirley and Jackie. Shirley is learning to cope with her dyslexia and Jackie is trying to fit in as she is newly arrived from Vietnam. Shirley's parents have adopted Jackie and now these very different girls are sisters.

The story would have worked better if Yours Turly, Shirley were longer. Martin is trying to cover so many tricky subjects in the course of a 150 or so pages and ends up glossing over everything.

Then there is Jackie's country of origin. Had it been published in the early 1980s, it would have fit right in with so many of the children of American soldiers and Vietnamese mothers being adopted into families at the end of the Vietnam war. But by 1988, the war had been over for 15 years and Jackie is 8. It makes me wonder if Martin polished off an manuscript that had been sitting in her closet for a few years.

Although Jackie is described as being from Vietnam, her mannerisms and language mistakes make her sound Japanese. Her "Engrish" unfortunately paints all people from Asia as being the same and interchangeable. While I'm all for the universality of the human experience, I think Martin missed an opportunity to teach a little bit about Vietnamese culture.

On Shirley's side of the story, there's the dyslexia. She's supposedly been diagnosed a number of years ago and yet now that Jackie has appeared she's just starting extra studies with a counselor to learn how to cope. The dyslexia seemed to be a plot device to make the "competition" between Shirley and Jackie more even as Jackie learns to read and write in English. Otherwise, Shirley's dyslexia is about as convincing as Jackie's back story.

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