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Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
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Posted by John David Anderson
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Our Wayward Fate: 11/16/19

Our Wayward Fate

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao (2019) is set in Indiana in a very white, racist town where Ali Chu is the only Chinese student at her school. Then one day a new Chinese student shows up, Chase Yu. Sparks fly — some good and some bad.

At home things are already tense. Ali's parents don't get along. Her mother stays at home, rarely venturing out. Her father hasn't been the same since he failed to earn tenure.

Although Ali's mother has always insisted that she should only date Chinese boys, she doesn't approve of Chase. She is down right hostile to the though of Ali being in a relationship with him.

After learning of their relationship, Ali's mother suddenly starts pushing for her to take a trip to China. As far as Ali has known, her family is from Taiwan. But here she is being dragged out of school to travel to China.

Gloria Chao in the introduction explains she has chosen to leave the Mandarin spoken in the book untranslated. She does this to recreate the experience of many Chinese-American children who grow up knowing certain phrases but never fully learning the language or learning how to read it.

There are times in the book where Ali and Chase go on fascinating tangents on the literal vs. idiomatic meaning of certain phrases. These do get translated through the context of their conversations. I would love to see my daughter's reaction to this book as she has studied Mandarin for seven years and has picked up a few interesting idioms from her more entertaining teachers.

While the mid book trip to China might seem like the reason for this book's placement on the road narrative spectrum, it isn't. While the goal of the trip is match Ali with a better Chinese boy than Chase, it's a complete goose chase. Neither Ali nor her would be fiancé are interested in each other. Furthermore, he happens to be gay. But even if he weren't, there just isn't the chemistry there that Ali's mother swears she sees.

Instead, the book's placement on the spectrum comes from actions Ali and Chase take back home in Indiana. As Ali and her would be fiancé aren't a couple and aren't going to become one, only Ali and Chase qualify as a traveling couple (33).

Ali and Chase meet up in Chicago at the end of her abortive flight to China. It's there in the Windy City (00) that they confirm their status as a couple. It's also there that they make plans to confront their parents and set things right.

But their route to the city, to becoming a couple, is a metaphorical one, through the cornfield (FF). Throughout the book Ali ties her feelings of being trapped to living near cornfields. When Chase and she come to the decision on how to confront their parents they literally walk through a field to stand in the waters of Lake Michigan and they look back towards Chicago.

All together Our Wayward Fate is ultimately about a couple traveling to the city via the cornfield (with a detour to China).

Four stars

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