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Bates, Judy Fong. Midnight at the Dragon Cafe.

BATES, Judy Fong. Midnight at the Dragon Cafe. Perseus, Counterpoint. 316p. c2005. 158243-189-2. $14.00. SA

When Su-Jen and her mother, Lai-Jing, left Communist China in the 1950s for Canada, they spoke no English, and Su-Jen had never met her father. In Ontario, they are the only Chinese family, set apart but for the fact that Su-Jen's father owns the local Chinese restaurant, The Dragon Cafe. Su-Jen's elderly father and beautiful young mother live unhappily as strangers, not even sleeping in the same bed. Su-Jen's mother is miserable with their poverty in this new small town. The balance of this family shifts when Su-Jen's half brother, Lee-Kung, comes to live with them and work in the restaurant. Soon Lai-Jing no longer shares her daughter's bed, as she and her stepson begin a torrid affair to which Su-Jen is the only witness. As Su-Jen's family unravels before her eyes, she is rapidly adapting to life in Canada. She becomes fluent in English; she is given the school name of Annie; and she develops friendships among the Canadian girls. The best of these friends is Charlotte, a spirited girl who behaves in a way that is older than her years. Little does Annie realize that the fate a fortuneteller predicted for her would befall her best friend.

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe is a quietly lyrical coming-of-age novel about a young girl who is adapting and thriving while watching her family struggle to maintain their cultural identity as they impotently fight against racism and poverty. The writing in this novel is beautifully simple and perfectly complements the out-of-context Chinese culture, which exists at the heart of the story. The style is accessible, and although the character of Su-Jen is young, the portrayal of her disenchantment with her family as well as her awkward assimilation of Canadian culture will ring true with the older teens to whom this book might appeal. Heather Lisowski, YA Libn., Castle Rock, CO
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Author:Lisowski, Heather
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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