During this last post-election month, I feel like my emotions are out of control and too close to the surface. Case in point, I was doing a first listen of my copy of the Hamilton Mix-Tape the other morning while making breakfast and basically was misty eyed during the whole first half. Songs about immigrants and rising up and writing your way out of bad circumstances hit close to home (and I’m a middle-aged white lady so I can only imagine how this CD resonates with other folks in my community).
What does all this have to do with The Sun is Also a Star? Everything. This young adult story of first love and poor timing by Nicola Yoon would have hit me hard as a teen but it hits me hard now as an adult, full of fear and hope in equal measure. It’s the story of Daniel and Natasha, both immigrants to New York, who meet by chance and by chance, I mean a million small decisions and accidents lead to their first interaction. Daniel is the second son of Korean immigrants and parental expectations weigh heavily on him. He is supposed to go to Yale and become a doctor though he dreams of becoming a poet. Natasha, originally from Jamaica, has lived in New York City for over a decade with her family. Though Natasha’s family originally came to accompany her dad while he established a theatre career, things did not work out as planned. Their visas expired, Natasha’s father’s career never happened, and now many years later, they are being deported. Natasha cannot believe she is being sent back to a country she feels she hardly knows.
On Natasha’s last day in the United States, she meets Daniel. He is on his way to an admissions interview with a representative from Yale; she is going to the USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) building in Manhattan to try to make a last-ditch effort to help her family stay in the U.S. I’ll leave the details of how they first cross paths for you to enjoy when you read this, but it’s both mysterious and believable and because this is a love story told over the course of a day, they don’t continue to miss each other in A Next Stop Wonderland way.
Natasha and Daniel take turns telling the story but Yoon also interweaves other perspectives and histories—that show other stories of connection and disconnection spinning around them. This is a novel of love but it’s also about immigration, hopes and dashed dreams, family, isolation, the power of connection and kindness, and how the happiness of one couple can be rooted in the pain of another.
Needless to say, the end of the book made me cry, and I was better for it.