A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some anti-racism lessons in how certain prejudiced perspectives are unfair and mean. Some scenes teach how saying hurtful things can hurt kids' feelings.
Endure, survive, and find ways to fight against abuse and trauma. Seek help, do what's right, and fight back when it is safe to do so. Protect those you love. Believe in yourself and follow your dreams.
Positive Role Models
Despite growing up in an abusive household with an abusive, angry, and sad father, Wen continues to hope and work for a better life and a happier future. She knows how to survive and placate her father, protects her mother, and is very compassionate and empathetic. She looks out for her good friend, Henry. Both wen and her mother finally find the courage to stand up to Wen's father.
The main characters are Chinese Australian. Some readers may feel a few of the portrayals are stereotypical, an angry and abusive Chinese Australian father, a quiet and obedient Chinese Australian mother, a Chinese kids who are good students. But at least for the main characters, these personas cover truly layered and complex young people.
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Violence & Scariness
While there is no great physical violence that befalls any of the main characters, except for a wife and mother having her wrist roughly grabbed and her arm pulled by an abusive husband, a girl getting hit over the head with a rolled-up newspaper and having the backs of her hands smacked with a bamboo cane by an abusive and angry father. A girl and her mother spend almost all of the novel trying to survive an emotionally and psychologically abusive father who repeatedly insults, demeans, and yells at them. He throws tantrums, damages the house and furniture, burns posters and letters, and freaks out whenever his rules aren't followed. Living under his rule, the mother has no freedom, is under strict demands, must dress certain ways, cannot drive, and must have food prepared at certain times and in certain ways every day. The daughter spends every day under strict rule as well, having to do homework, practice violin, and obey her father no matter what. The daughter is also followed around her neighborhood at night by two scary men. Another Chinese Australian family suffers a tragedy when their mother kills herself and the 14-year-old son finds her in their backyard. The Chinese Australian kids also experience racism from other kids and a teacher, the former calling them names like, "slant eyes," "chink," and "straight off the boat." A Chinese Australian man experiences racism from adults calling him a "ching chong Chinaman."
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Racist language includes: "chink," "slant eyes," "ching chong Chinaman," and "bum."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A brief reference to a "bad neighborhood" where "drug deals" happen. A few references to "drunk people" at restaurants.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim is a middle grade novel about a Chinese Australian 14-year-old girl named Wen Zhou, her best friend Henry, and their families. Wen's father is an angry, abusive person who treats her and her mother terribly. Wen and Henry plan on applying to a selective school far from home, but a tragedy strikes Henry's family. Wen wants to help them, but living under the restrictive rules of her father makes this difficult. Moments of physical violence include Wen's father roughly grabbing her mother, smacking her over the head with a rolled-up newspaper, and hitting the back of her hands with a bamboo cane. Wen's father is verbally and psychologically abusive in temper, tirades, tantrums, yelling, screaming, insults, and strict, unreasonable rules. A suicide occurs, and though the method isn't described, the event is traumatic for the character who discovers it. Strong language includes racial slurs, like "Chink," and "ching chong Chinaman," "slant eyes" and "straight off the boat." There are a few brief references to a "bad neighborhood" where "drug deals" are made and references to "drunk people" behaving badly at restaurants.
Is It Any Good?
There's a lot to admire about the bravery involved in telling a story like this. Tiger Daughter's main messages of hope and continuing to try no matter what come through amidst the constant bombardment of the abusive father's behavior. Without its hopeful ending, however, this middle grade novel might just be too heavy for many readers. Indeed, 90 percent of this story is spent under the father's reign of emotional, psychological, and occasional physical abuse, which is all very draining and very sad. This is an emotionally dark read, even if in the last few pages there is reason to hope for a happier life for Wen and her mother.
On top of all this, there's a brutal suicide, the difficult aftermath, and the near constant danger of Wen's father frequently almost catching Wen and her mother trying to help the family affected by the suicide. Throw in some danger of strangers stalking a girl through dark streets, racial slurs slung at Chinese Australians, and the possibility of some of these character representations reinforcing damaging stereotypes about Chinese Australian people, this book has its drawbacks. However, its messages are ultimately positive and the daughter at the center is a strong lead who manages to survive and get out from under the abuse of her father. Readers who relate to aspects of Wen or Henry's life will especially find comfort in their resilience.
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