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American dream or nightmare?

Cover of Parachute Kids
A review of Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang

Feng-Li Lin and her siblings land in the United States for a dream vacation to visit Disneyland and unexpectedly end up staying forever. They arrive in California with their parents and as soon as they enter customs, there are problems with tourist visas. It starts out with their dad needing to return to Taiwan almost immediately. Then their mother needs to leave with plans to come back shortly. Family friends who immigrated earlier provide support and supervision, but before too long they move away, and the kids are on their own. This means 10-year-old Feng-Li, or Ann; 14-year-old Ke-Gāng, or Jason; and 16-year-old Jia-Xi, or Jessie, are living independently with Jessie trying to manage the household and keep her younger brother and sister in line all by herself. 

The fear of having their undocumented immigrant status exposed is terrifying and the kids are prey to scams, racism, bullying and more. New to America, there are also cultural gaps and confusion with language. Set in the 1980s, there are many funny and heartwarming situations that are unique to that era, such as getting permed hair to fit in and visiting a Toys R Us. The kids settle into their new life and are eventually reunited with their parents while the reader gets a glimpse into what it's like for "parachute kids."

An author's note defines parachute kids as children brought to live with friends or family in a foreign country. The author's own experience as a parachute kid inspired the story which includes a mix of fiction, memory, and anecdotes. This is a powerful and heartwarming graphic novel for middle grades about what it's like to start over in a new country, make a life for yourself, and keep it together in spite of it all.

Aug 31, 2023