Lucy and Linh and Immigrant Narratives

Lucy and Linh

In lieu of our weekly new releases post (Summers are kind of slow! Who knew? Apparently, everyone but me…), I’m taking this opportunity to talk about one of my all-time favorite books: Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung. Anyone who knows me has heard me talk about this book again and again and again — and for good reason.

Lucy and LinhLucy and Linh (also known by its other title, Laurinda) centers on Lucy, a daughter from an Asian immigrant family, who struggles to balance her life as a scholarship student at Laurinda, a cutthroat all-girls private school for the elite, with her life at home with her working class family. It’s a story about immigration, family, racism, and identity — all things that are incredibly important to me, as a Taiwanese American daughter of immigrants.

Here’s an excerpt from Lucy and Linh, if you aren’t convinced that you need to read this book (and yes, I’ve brought up this quote before — it’s just that good! Don’t @ me!):

“What part of China are you from?” Aaron asked me, in the way you would ask a four-year-old to hold up a handful of fingers to show their age.

“I was born in Vietnam.”

“Hmm, how does that work?”

“Well, my mum went into labor and I popped out.” There was an awkward silence; my joke was hanging there like a tightrope walker without a net.

“I mean,” he patiently explained, as if talking to someone who had just clambered off a boat and had to fill in an immigration form in a language they couldn’t read, “why was a Chinese girl born in Vietnam?”

Linh, you would have retorted with “What’s a white guy like you doing being born in an Aboriginal country?” but I didn’t.

When #FamiliesBelongTogether was gaining traction a month ago, a post went up on Rich in Color by K. Imani about empathy for immigrants, with an accompanying book list (read it here!) — and it got me thinking about the books that served as either a mirror or a window to my own identity as a child of immigrants. The toxic narrative behind anti-immigrant sentiment is a dehumanizing one, one that simplifies and twists reality into something that can justify cruelty. Books like Lucy and Linh and many others help push back against this kind of narrative.

At the same time, reading isn’t enough. With ICE deporting immigrants and the Muslim Ban upheld by the Supreme Court and — well, the list goes on, unfortunately, there’s always something that can be done to push back. Support immigrant authors writing their stories. Tell your elected officials that you care about immigrants and want them to fight back against racism. Donate to organizations working to help immigrants (here’s a handy link to donate, via Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages).

So: What are you reading? And what are you doing?