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The Life of a Banana

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  415 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Longlisted for The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venomous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend i
Paperback, 270 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Legend Press
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  415 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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The Life of a Banana is a Young Adult novel about a British teenage girl named Xing Li and her struggles to fit in both at home and at school.
I am an outsider and what Chinese people call a banana: white on the inside, yellow on the outside.

The story opens with Xing Li and her older brother Lai Ker moving in with their maternal grandmother after the death of their mother. Their grandmother is a seemingly very cold and rigid woman who prides education and traditionally-high career aspirations su
The title of the book made me smile, since a 'banana' was meant to describe a Chinese person with a western up bringing. Yellow outside and white inside. In my country we have the 'coconuts'. It seems as though there will always be confusion and bitterness when second generation immigrants have to adapt to their country while the parents expects them to uphold their old cultures and beliefs. In our country's case it is not immigrants, but indigenous groups adopting the western lifestyle.

Xing Li
Courtney Fitzmaurice
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diverse-reads
I adore this book. The plot is excellent, delievering plenty of twists and turns, some of which hit me like a punch in the gut. I always wanted to know more about the lives of the characters and I was interested as to what was going to happen for the entire book.
The characters in this book are brilliant. Our protagonist, Xing Li, just felt so real to me. I wanted to protect her from the horrible things she went through, but there was nothing I could do and I watched as the bullying went from b
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was at a book launch, in a book shop, last week and while waiting for the author to appear I scanned the bookshelves and spotted this.

Took it to the till, didn't buy book that was launched, and started it a couple of days later.

That is the story of how this book came into my possession.

So, the story. A 'banana' is a Chinese person who is 'yellow on the outside and white on the inside.' (NOT MY WORDS!) so born of Chinese descent but brought up in a western country with little knowledge of any
Russell Jones
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
The rest of the story contradicted the main narrative. And the final quarter seemed written in isolation to what had gone before.

Long enjoyable stretched though.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Xing Li’s world has been taken from her and she has to fend for herself. Not only are things harsh at home – but life is brutal at her new school – horrifyingly so. The school is very prestigious and Xing Li is not only Asian she speaks with a cockney accent at well. Certainly not a worthy person in the eyes of the other students who are absolutely cruel. Xing Li is bullied and vilified almost to the nth degree and her only support is Jay, a part Chinese, part Jamaican boy who is also bullied bu ...more
Eustacia Tan
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I actually heard about this book in The Straits Times, so I was super excited. It's about British Born Chinese, the Chinese part coming from Singapore. I'll just say up front that my standards for this are probably higher than most other fiction I read, because I've been looking for awesome Singapore fiction. Plus, after that disastrous Singapore Lover book, I'm probably overly sensitive to depictions of Singapore and Singaporeans.

So dun say I complain too much hor. Like is like lah, but still m
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My heart ached for little Xing Li, a British born girl of Chinese decent, facing racism and deep loss as she comes of age. After the loss of her beloved mother, Xing Li and her brother Lai Ker move in with their 'mean old' Chinese grandmother, strange uncle Ho and starlet beauty Aunt Mei. The reader follows Xing Li as she tries to understand the mystery of her mother's estranged relationship with her grandmother while trying to find her place in her new seemingly unwelcoming home. Worse, Xing Li ...more
Amy Buckle / Amy's Bookshelf
Another book from Legend Press, this time about Xing Li, a girl born and bred in London who is Chinese and never quite feels like she fits in. She is what some Chinese people call a banana: yellow on the outside but white on the inside. After Xing Li’s mum tragically dies, she and her brother are sent to live with her strict Grandmother and Xing is sent to a different school. Here she will discover the unfortunate prevalence that bullying and racism still have, but she will also find people who ...more
Liz Barnsley
Review by Melissa Barnsley on behalf of Liz Loves Books.

The Life of a Banana is a deeply moving, funny and fascinating insight into the life of a British-Chinese teenager, Xing Li. Having lived in China for a short while myself I found this book particularly interesting; during my time in China I found that a lot of Chinese nationals yearn to start a new life in Britain or America, and many of them see the freedom of our countries as preferable to the often oppressive Chinese traditions and laws
I admire what P.P. Wong was endeavouring to do in The Life of a Banana, but the book simply did not work for me. I have heard great things about it, but found what I read of it rather dull, predictable, and even a little confusing with regard to characters who were not introduced properly.
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Xing Li is a banana – yellow on the outside and white on the inside. This is the term used uncritically by BBCs – British Born Chinese – for those born and bred in the UK but who are ethnically Chinese. In this debut novel - which was turned down by 27 publishers before finally being accepted – we get to know one such banana through her thoughts, feelings and experiences as she copes with the death of her mother, her new life in her matriarchal grandmother’s somewhat dysfunctional household and ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cina, ebook
banana, ovvero giallo fuori e bianco dentro

Xing Li perde la madre per un incidente e, insieme a suo fratello, dalle periferie londinesi si trasferisce a casa della nonna a Kensington e in una scuola privata, dove viene in contatto con il classismo inglese e il razzismo che spesso accompagna le persone lontane dal loro paese di origine, inutile dire che, nonostante le origini familiari, Xing Li è nata in Inghilterra...
storia di formazione adolescenziale, con tanto di segreti familiari e modi di d
Miranda Saville
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: new-mum-years
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joy Isabella
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Without the long-list of The Bailey's Prize, I would never come across The Life of a Banana. I was instantly struck by such an inventive title, unaware at the time of what it symbolised. What could seem like a gimmicky book from the outside proves to be a moving story about British Chinese people, about the loss of culture, and what it means to be yourself, wherever you are in the world. I had low expectations, but found myself longing for more, especially for more insight into Grandma's life to ...more
May 02, 2015 added it
In some ways, I felt it was more for young adults, and should be on all school curriculums. There is a fine line between writing from the point of view of a young person, but still from a filtering adult, like Margaret Atwood is so good at for example, and seeming to be unfiltered adolescent. However, I still think it was a powerful book, really important in terms of finding a voice, and I often think of it while driving etc, or seeing young Asian women walking down the street, and wondering wha ...more
Ping Loong
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Touching, funny and thought provoking all at once. A brilliant first novel by PP Wong, the narrative is fast paced and witty and written from the perspective of a young British Chinese girl, captures her 'growing up' well in the midst of cultural confusion and bullying. The plot is engaging and the characters memorable.
In particular I could identify with the messages and themes brought out and would highly recommend this book. This Banana has a healthy life ahead!! Can't wait for the sequel.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Life of a Banana is essentially a coming of age tale, but Xing Li, a British Born Chinese girl has it far harder than most of us. The story tackles multiple big themes - grief, mental health, bullying, cultural identity and the timeless horror of adolescence. There are tear-jerking moments aplenty, but Xing Li is an engaging and believable teenage narrator making this a very readable and thought-provoking first novel.
Cristal Punnett
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wheel-a-thon-2
Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. A great story about Xing Li life, after her mothers death she and her brother live with her Grandma, there are secrets to be uncovered.

A wonderful first novel from PP Wong, four stars all the way.
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book was interesting, entertaining and I loved it.
Humourous and deeply moving.

Jul 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
The selling point of this novel is very weak, and the writing is not creative.
Gayla Bassham
Clunky writing, poor pacing, and a couple of unbelievable turns in the plot spoiled this book for me, although I agree that Xing Li is a very appealing protagonist.
Mary Snaddon
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Different. Funny and sad.
The Life of a Banana by PP Wong

One sentence plot summary:

In this book, Xing Li undergoes drastic changes after the untimely death of her mother on her twelfth birthday.

Spoilers Throughout:

I wanted to like this book.

I thought, okay. The story of a young Chinese girl who struggles to balance being British with her Chinese culture. That is a story that has endless potential.

In a lot of ways, the Life of a Banana did reach that potential. It illustrated the challenges that come from desperation to f
Pavan Amara
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly simple but brilliant book. It manages to discuss a number of pressing and painful topics whilst retaining its humour, painting animated and complex characters, and leading you through some interesting plot twists. It really resonated with me, despite the fact that I'm 30 and the protagonist is in her early teens. The voices of Xing Li, Aunty Mei, Lai Ker, and (of course) Grandma were real and relatable, and somehow lovable despite their flaws and continually misguided decis ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine being 12 years old, your father is dead and now your mum is dead too. Its just you and your brother and you are sent to live with your estranged Grandmother, Auntie Mei and Uncle Ho. This is the situation Xing Li finds herself in and oh, how she tugged at my heartstrings.

All this young girl wanted was love and comfort in her grief, instead she got a Grandmother who was harsh, strict and seemingly lacking in any emotion. Uncle Ho had serious mental issues and Auntie Mei, although sympathe
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can’t fit this book into a box – it’s wacky, hilarious, touching and intensely interesting all at the same time. Xing Li herself is the Banana – Asian on the outside, white on the inside – who is also dealing with all the struggles of adolescence, with more than her fair share of bullying at school. She’s not the only outcast, though – her best buddy Jay is a mixed-race kid with dreadlocks who is totally on her side. Together they learn when to shut up and put up, and when to fight.
As with
May 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
I thought the ideas and themes that this book covered resonated, and provided insight to readers unfamiliar with the challenges faced by a "model minority". Sadly, the narrative voice just grated on my nerves in a way that I could only read a couple dozen pages at a time before having to put it down. I hope that tweens have a less banal life of the mind than is portrayed here. I've read plenty of books with protagonists at a similar age that seemed realistic without resorting to purposeful gramm ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Life of a Banana is a moving and sharp novel about identity and family. Twelve-year-old Xing Li was born in Hackney and grew up in Kilburn, but still most people just see her as 'Chinese'. When her mother dies, her and her brother move in with their rich grandmother and end up at exclusive private schools where they stand out against a sea of white people. She finds herself balancing her identity even more as her grandmother emphasises Chinese culture and food and her main solace is her new ...more
Jane Connor
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venomous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend is Jay - a mixed raced Jamaican boy with a passion for classical music.

Then Xing Li's life takes an even harsher turn: the school bullying escalates and her uncle requests she as
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PP Wong is an author, screenwriter and editor. She was born during a very cold winter in London and her fondest memory is trudging through shoulder height snow.

Her debut novel The Life of a Banana was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and highly rated in many publications including The Guardian, The Independent, Corriere Della Sera, The Straits Times, Bangkok Post and Vanity Fai