I Am Golden

Feiwel & Friends. Feb. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250842053.
PreS-Gr 2– In lockstep with Eyes That Kiss at the Corner by Joanna Ho comes Chen’s glorious tribute to a small beloved girl, who is everything to her parents, and who becomes everything to readers, too. Her eyes “point to the sun” while her hair is “inky black and smooth as a peaceful night sky. We see skin brushed with gold.” This is an immigrant’s child born here, who acts as translator for her parents, still struggling with English as their second language. They know they will not be with her when she is called out for being different, and their advanced heartbreak does not prevent it. But they do the best they can. “You are never alone,” and there is “power in being different.” This makes the leap from the story of one darling Asian girl and her large backpack to a universal story of acculturation and love; the writing is grounded in wonderful notions, but it is Diao’s illustrations that make abstract ideas accessible. “I am golden” becomes an anthem, a mantra, and harkening to the ancestors, and the languid watercolor-like illustrations are comfortable in straddling school scenes and those of dragons and phoenixes. In these pages, cultural triumphs live next to snug family dinners, and all of it matters as the parents set their child aloft. Every child should be launched by such words of love and confidence. Includes notes from both author and illustrator.
VERDICT Salve on the wounds of racism, this is a transporting invitation to be different, go forward, and meet your destiny.

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