Jo Kwan is thirteen and has decided to start a dairy as she is convinced that ’good stuff’ is finally going to happen to her. Sadly, this is not the case as her family move to an even smaller home in Coventry- above a Chinese takeaway. In addition to this, she has to contend with a series of ill-fated pets, grandparents who speak no English, bullies at school and her dad’s increasingly erratic behaviour. Life is not easy… In spite of everything, she manages to find a new best friend and pursue her dream of being an artist.
Subtitled ‘an almost entirely true story’, ‘Chinglish’ is heartwarming, hilarious and deeply moving. Told through diary entries and doodles, the book offers an almost painful look at one woman’s experiences of growing up in a Chinese takeaway in 1980’s Coventry. In places, it is a very uncomfortable read as she tries desperately to fit in, yet is subjected to the most callous, casual racism. Yet, there are some genuinely hysterical moments in the story which add light to the darkness which often creeps in.
Jo’s spirit and determination to remove herself from the expectation that she will work in the takeaway until she marries the man of her parents’ choosing is inspiring and has the reader cheering her on every step of the way as she faces challenge after challenge.
‘Chinglish’ is a wonderful story of life ‘warts and all’, offering poignant insights into family life, being different and ultimately, discovering who you really are.
Chinglish Sue Cheung
Andersen ISBN: 978-1783448395
Published September 2019