Tiger Daughter – Rebecca Lim – Allen & Unwin – Published February 2021
Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.
A beautiful and powerful #OwnVoices novel about abusive family relationships and the possibility of freedom offered by friendship and education.
Tiger Daughter is a book that really quick and easy to devour. It address some very serious topics – domestic abuse and control, suicide – but does so in a way that makes it accessible for young readers, compelling but also sensitive.
I love books that make me feel and Tiger Daughter had me swinging wildly from raging hot mad to sad and back again.
Wen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Travelling to Australia didn’t bring them the new, grand life they expected. Wen is bound by the restrictions her father places on her and her mother. Honestly, her father comes across as awful, but there is more to his story, more to the relationship Wen has with him. This book in no way excuses domestic abuse and nor does Wen. She knows how her father treats her and her mother is wrong and is determined to stand up against it in the ways in which she can. She is brave and determined. Her only friend at school, Henry, understands. He too is the son of immigrants. Together, they have planned to sit an entrance exam for an elite school – a future that will give them a way out and up.
When Henry’s family is hit by tragedy, Wen knows it is up to her to help Henry in every way she can and keep him working towards their goal. Helping Henry first means disobeying her mother. It isn’t long before her mother’s good heart has her on Wen’s side. Together, they deliver food and homework to Henry and his father each day, and each day they risk the wrath from Wen’s father.
This book brings to light the plight of Chinese immigrants in Australia, how hard it is for these children to find themselves reflected in everything from the language that surrounds them to the books in the school library (a poignant point, made very clear by the author). This book is an own voices book and the author shares her own experiences in the note at the end.
Domestic abuse is cross-cultural and this is a powerful novel for teens to read and relate to. Wen is a heartwarming character, so strong in the face of fear and willing to stand up for the things she knows to be right.
This book also deals with the emotional impact of suicide and does so in an understanding and sensitive way (no method described). Wen and others also stand up against the stigma some characters spout.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Domestic abuse, immigrants, family culture, control, suicide, mental health, food, education.
Reading Age Guide: Ages 11 and up.
Advisory: References to depression and suicide. Violence – domestic violence, bullying and control.
Published: February 2021 by Allen and Unwin.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 206 pages.