Lessons in Fusion

Yellow Dog. Oct. 2021. 200p. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781773370682.
Gr 7 Up–Sarah Dayan-Abed is a 16-year-old multiracial, Ashkenazi Jewish and Filipinx teen who loves cooking, writing for her fusion cooking blog, and watching her favorite reality show, Cyber Chef, created during the pandemic. Cyber Chef has virtual contestants create recipes that must be easily reproduced by judges. When an opportunity to star in Cyber Chef: Next Gen arises, Sarah jumps at it, thinking about all of the recipes she created with her Jewish paternal grandmother, Baba. However, it becomes clear that the show is in search of someone Filipinx. Sarah identifies more with her Jewish heritage, so her backstory is rewritten to fit the program’s demographic desire. Her blog is suddenly filled with Filipinx recipes she has only recently learned, her name is constantly mispronounced on the show (Seh-rah instead of Sah-rah), and her memories of cooking with Baba are attributed to Lola, her maternal grandmother, whom she doesn’t know well. The book superbly tackles issues of identity, both in the ways we see ourselves and the ways the world perceives us. Though this is Sarah’s story, an array of character perspectives dive deeper into issues of diversity, culture, family, and identity. Some sections feel unnecessary, confusing, and take away from the main story, but others, like Sarah’s mother’s, give fuller insight into Sarah’s cultural and racial identity formation. Each chapter opens with a detailed recipe that ties into what is ahead. Taking place during the pandemic, with references to mask wearing, social distancing, and Zoom, this book feels highly relevant.
VERDICT Highlighting family, food, multiracial identities, and cultural competency, this book is recommended for general collections.

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