A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots of details about life in the Dakota Territories in 1880. Hanna's an aspiring seamstress, so much of the terminology having to do with dressmaking is introduced (piping, shirring, calico, knotted buttonhole stitches, etc.). Hanna meets some Sioux women, who speak with her in the Lakota language and teach her about roots they harvest and how to prepare them.
Finish what you start -- good work isn't good if you don't finish. Just because it's hard doesn't mean you shouldn't try. When you feel sadness or anger, look outside of yourself and be of service because it fills you with goodness. Sometimes beautiful things aren't for buying -- they're for dreaming about. Being clean and neat shows respect to other people. In order to to save time, take your time. For the person who's sour, do something sweet. Learn when to be strong on your own and when to be strong with the help of others. If you know yourself and who you are, you don't need the approval of other people. Breathe. Before there are answers, there have to be questions.
Positive Role Models
Hanna is half-Asian (Chinese and Korean) and half-White. She must be hidden from view in the part of the country where she and her White father are traveling, or else people might say horrible things or make threats to them both. Hanna's Asian mother taught her many wise sayings from her culture, showing her how to have patience and be a good person. At two points in the story, Hanna meets a group of Lakota Sioux women who are harvesting prairie potatoes. When she first meets them, she cooks for them, treating them with honor, later defending their right to be looking for food when the justice of the peace in La Forge threatens to report their whereabouts to the U.S. government seat in Yankton.
Violence & Scariness
Hanna witnesses riots in Los Angeles where the White majority lynches Chinese men, burning and looting their homes and businesses. Her mother dies as a result of smoke inhalation when she tries to save someone during the riots. Her papa had "throttled a man half to death" because someone had insulted his wife. He was nearly charged with assault. Papa's mood changes often, and at one point he yanks Hanna into a wagon. When she says that he's hurting her, he says, "You think that hurts?" Hanna learns to shoot a rifle to keep them safe on their journeys. Hanna is assaulted by two drunken men in the street who tear her dress, scratch her, and squeeze her hard enough to make a bruise. These men prepare to sexually assault her, but she manages to get away. She feels she can't tell her father about the assault, and has nightmares about it. The rumor of the assault keeps people away from her father's new business.
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Hanna's called racist names like "slanty eyes," "slitty eyes," "Chinamen eyes," and "dirty Chinamen." Some parents refuse to let their children be in the same room as her, saying she's "dirty."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Hanna is assaulted in the street by two drunken men who tear her dress then fall to the ground because they are so drunk.
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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.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
Books with Strong Female Characters
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