A couple of weeks ago, Lisa posted a blog in Scriblerians talking about moms in YA literature. I reacted quite strongly about the lack of good mom role models in modern YA novels.
The very next week, I read a novel by Mitali Perkins titled Bamboo People. Not only did it have an excellent role model in the main character’s mom, two other moms stood out as women to be admired as well. AND two dads! I was so excited to find an author who wrote in a style I admired, that I emailed her and gushed my appreciation. I also asked for an interview for a future Scriblerian post. She graciously agreed. Stay tuned!
But back to Bamboo People. This is the kind of fiction that I love. Realistic. Gripping. Teens striving to be the best people they can be – so their parents will be proud of them!
By the title alone, you know the story does not take place in America. The setting is Burma. Or Myanmar if you are supportive of the communist regime that runs its government. (Another tidbit that I learned from this real, gripping, fictional story.)
Chiko is the son of a doctor. His father has been sent to prison on a trumped up crime. In Burma the reality is that an educated man should be feared, thus imprisoned. Chiko is forced into the army, and he must figure out how to survive without shaming his parents.
Tu Reh is a member of the Karenni tribe. Strongly independent, mostly Christian, his people flee from the army’s intended annihilation. When he stumbles upon a wounded Chiko, Tu Reh must decide: kill the enemy or offer a wounded boy refuge. Which decision would his Christian father find most honorable? Since his father is away on a mission, Tu Reh cannot ask for advice directly.
The mothers do not tell their sons what to do. Mitali Perkins writes in such a way that the reader knows the mothers have already instilled righteous values in their boys. They encourage, they praise, but each boy must make an adult decision on his own. This is the perfect meld of the protagonist solving his own problem AND his parents as influential mentors in his decision.
When I returned to my local library, I searched the shelves for more Mitali Perkins books. They only had one: Extreme American Makeover. Totally different premise, far more lighthearted, but the parents were there, married, loving each other, teaching their daughter right from wrong. Mitali has several other books published. I’m looking forward to reading them all.
Realistic and gripping, with excellent parent role models. What other YA books are out there that you may know? Inform me!
I reviewed Bamboo People on my blog a year or so ago and really liked it, too. Although I knew a bit about Myanmar already, it opened my eyes to what it can be like for the children there.
Like you, I also knew a little of current events in Burma. Mitali Perkins makes it real. And personal. How individuals respond to the danger and the intimidation.
I’ll have to think about it – Trixie Belden is the only thing that pops in my head. 😉 But thanks for pointing out an author I haven’t heard of. I’ll have to see if our library has her books, too!
I will always have fond memories of Trixie Belden! Right up there with Nancy Drew and the Dana Girl mysteries. A genre unto themselves.
Definitely a book I’d like. I’m close to my parents. Mom and I have always had a great relationship even when I was a non-adult of teenage years.
What a blessing to your mom! I’m afraid I was a very pouty, shallow teenager. I started to pull out of that phase while a senior in high school.
I tried to comment on this from my phone when I first read it, but it looks like it didn’t post. sigh.
It sounds like a book I would enjoy. Other cultures. I will look for it in our local library. Thanks for the tip!