NebraskaIcebergs's Reviews > The Year of the Rat

The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin
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Dec 17, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: own

In The Year of the Rat, one of the changes that Pacy faces is saying good-bye to Melody, whose family moves from New York to California. Yes, I know this can be a cliché. By removing a friend from the picture, an author is left with the ability to introduce new friends and hence new adventures. Remember, though, Grace Lin’s books are semi-autobiographical; Melody’s family is based on a real situation, which Lin weaves into her sweet and charming tale of family and friendship. In drawing upon her Asian heritage, she also ensures that her tales are unique. For example, one day the family heads off to Albany to visit Pacy’s cousin Max who is turning one. Presents are opened, platters of food are served, and then Uncle Clifford brings out the destiny plate. Each item placed on the plate symbolizes a different job. Whichever one Max picks is thought represent the job he will one day hold. True to what you might expect from a toddler, Max just wants to eat his cake. Maybe he’ll be a baker? One of my favorite and bittersweet moments in the book occurs when Pacy helps Melody pack. Melody is told she can’t take all her books with her and so must give half to Pacy. The girls struggle to pick who will get which books, until they hit upon a compromise. After Pacy is done with with a book, she’ll mail it back to Melody. In the aftermath of this plan, a funny incident happens that I’ll leave to you to find. As with The Year of the Dog, not everything is perky and light. Pacy continues to struggle to find balance in her mixed identity as American and Chinese, especially when her peers try to match her with a new Asian boy at school solely based on their common ethnic background. After being cautioned that writers and artists are typically poor, she also begins to explore the wisdom of her career choice.

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