A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Linda Sue Park's Prairie Lotus is a beautifully written story that explores racism and violence against people of color in 1880s Dakota Territories. Hanna,14, and her White father left their home in Los Angeles, California, after riots there, in which more than a dozen Chinese men were lynched and Hanna's Asian mother (part Chinese and part Korean) died from smoke inhalation. Hanna and her father travel across the country by horse and wagon but can't find a place to settle until her dad meets a tolerant justice of the peace, who encourages them to come to La Forge in the Dakota Territories. There, Hanna experiences harassment -- and ultimately an attempted sexual assault by drunk men -- because of her race and heritage. She escapes the assault but sustains a bruise and a scratch and has nightmares and anxiety as a result.
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What's the story?
In PRAIRIE LOTUS, Newberry Award- winning author Linda Sue Park takes up the conversation about race and acceptance that Laura Ingals Wilder's Little House series leaves out. Hanna's experience as a half-White, half-Asian girl informs how she goes through life. She hides her face, so that townspeople won't call her names or spit on her, which happens the farther from California that she and her father travel in the U.S. Territories. Having left an Asian community in Los Angeles, Hanna and her father have been traveling for years to find the right town in which to set up a dry goods store. Where there was safety in numbers in California (until a riot shatters the Asian community), Hanna has to rely on a few open-minded people in La Forge, Dakota Territories, who support her right to an education, and her right to exist among the White community. Hanna has worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming a dressmaker, but will the townspeople of La Forge accept her for who she is? Or will she and her father have to leave again to take their chances in another town?
Is it any good?
This deftly woven tale explores the dangers that non-White people faced in homesteading times, and it spares no detail. Much like the Little House series, Prairie Lotus is a fascinating account the everyday life of people who lived in a time before electricity yet enjoyed education and commerce, and who forged new lives in a New World. Hanna knows her life depends on the kindness of others. As seen from a teen's point of view, her honor, duty and fate are tightly bound with her father's. When he says jump, she really jumps -- his survival instincts have him close to exploding. It's a far cry from the warmth and ease that Pa in the Little House books can afford to share with his children.
Kids will appreciate how strong Hanna is, and how she listens to her mother's wisdom, which lives inside of her, and which helps her navigate the spitefulness of her fellow human beings. Hanna loves to design dresses, which will appeal to fashionable middle graders. She learns to use her skill to woo people into accepting her, which middle graders will also understand. Hanna's life is an example of a story that was never told. In this book, her story helps open hearts and change minds.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Prairie Lotus shows what it meant to be a minority in the United States in the 1880s. How have things changed? How have things stayed the same?
In Hanna's world, electricity doesn't light up houses at night, and almost everything is made by hand. What would it be like to depend on your skills to survive? Would you be able to live without your devices for more than a day?
Hanna and her class are delighted when someone reads aloud in class. Do you like to listen to books being read aloud? Why is having something read aloud different than watching a movie or a show?
- Author: Linda Sue Park
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Clarion Books
- Publication date: March 3, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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