The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling (Wai Chim, A&U)
Sixteen-year-old Anna comes from a relatively traditional Chinese-Australian family. Originally from Hong Kong, her father owns a restaurant while her mother stays at home to look after the children. Anna is coasting by at school, her lack of high achievement made more difficult by her mother’s increasing inability to get out of bed and her father’s near-constant absence. With a younger brother and sister, it has fallen to Anna to become caretaker as their mother’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, switching between weeks spent in bed to frantic night-time cleaning and even delusions. It is obvious that Anna’s mother suffers from a mental illness, but Anna’s fierce loyalty to her family, and a fear that her siblings will be removed, prevents her from seeking the help they desperately need. This is a touching and emotional exploration of the effects of living with a mentally ill parent. This scenario of having to assume the role of parent will be familiar for some teens and highlights the constant struggle between wanting to have a ‘normal’ home life and having to manage an unpredictable parent. This is also a welcome exploration of Chinese-Australian culture and a moving story of family love, recommended for readers aged 14 and up.
Erin Wamala has worked in publishing and bookselling, and is currently a teacher librarian