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American Panda: 03/24/18
American Panda by Gloria Chao is set in and around MIT and follows the first year of university for seventeen year old Taiwanese-American Mei. Her parents and extended family expect her to get good grades, avoid boys, marry a good Taiwanese doctor, and become a doctor herself. There's just one problem: she's squicked out by all her medical and biology classes.
Chao makes it very clear early on that Mei's family are traditional to the extreme. Mei's mother, for instance, insists her daughter use the very formal mūqīn instead of màma. The men in the family as well hold all the power and the older women in the family bully the younger women to do what the men demand to keep themselves out of trouble.
On the sidelines of Mei's time at MIT are the rumors she hears about her brother Xing (who has been disowned for dating a woman the family believes is infertile) and a woman named Ying to whom every bad rumor is attributed. Mei over the course of the book meets up with both people to get their true stories and decide whether she wants to still try to be the impossibly "good daughter" her family demands.
The novel starts light-hearted but by the middle of the book has spiraled into a gut-wrenching emotional drama. Mei's vision of herself is torn apart and rebuilt. Her transformation makes for an emotional page-turner.
Her next book is Misaligned and is scheduled to be published sometime next year.