The Silence that Binds Us

HarperTeen. Jun. 2022. 448p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063059344.
Gr 9 Up–High school junior Maybelline Chen is shattered when her beloved older brother Danny dies by suicide. Neither May nor her parents saw signs of depression in Danny, a Princeton-bound senior and popular athlete, and his death leaves them reeling with guilt. Then, a wealthy white parent at May’s school lashes out with a racist gut-punch of an accusation, blaming “Asians” and “tiger parents” for increased student stress and competition and claiming that May’s Chinese American father and Taiwanese mother placed so much pressure on her brother that he killed himself. Devastated and circumspect, May’s parents ask her to keep quiet to protect her family from further backlash, but May’s rage fuels her to writes a series of letters and poems for the local paper that evolve into broader collaborative and intersectional activism at school. Tackling a range of important, timely topics that include the history of anti-Asian discrimination in the United States, allyship among historically marginalized populations, and the power of narratives to uphold (or disrupt) systems of oppression, this is a powerful, hopeful YA debut from award-winning children’s author Ho. While some dialogue veers into didacticism, May’s journey through personal and familial grief is poignant and questions of power and privilege are explored with nuance that will spark conversation among teen readers.
VERDICT Recommended for general purchase; hand to fans of Mark Oshiro’s Anger Is a Gift, Misa Sugiura’s This Time Will Be Different, or Kelly Loy Gilbert’s When We Were Infinite.

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