CW: homophobia galore, of course, but also familiar disappointment/lack of support on coming out (period appropriate, I suppose, but heart wrenching nonetheless)
This is a hard one for me to review–it hits a bit close to home, years later and on the opposite coast. I’m so glad that it was the chosen book for AAPI month for Cannonball Read, even though I didn’t end up writing my review OR participating in time (everything lined up with when I was moving across the globe, but I am making the next one happen no matter what).
I very much enjoyed this novel, for all that I’m not 100% sure how much of it is historical fiction (i.e., researched and/or based on the story of someone or someones) vs Lo’s imagining of what the time period might have been like. Either way, it teetered on the edge of happy and tense and wonderful and sad all the at the same time, as Lily and Kath try and navigate what it means to be queer, and Lily tries to navigate that and being a hyphenated American as well.
Some of my favorite passages were actually from the point of view of Judy, with this line in particular resonating with me:
Sometimes Judy felt a deep and burning anger at her adopted country, and she never knew what to do about it. She had come to America for an education and had intended to return home, but first she had met Francis and then the Communists had taken over and now, unfortunately, she couldn’t leave. America had given her so much in the four years since she arrived, but it also regularly reminded her of how it saw people like her.
To be clear, I’m not an immigrant to the US–born and brought up in the States, pretty much within a ~30 minute radius ever since I could remember. But in my adult life I became part of a set of friends who were recent immigrants, and of course my entire childhood I’ve had a first row seat to the story of my parents, who arrived here from India. While it’s not the main storyline of this book, the reminder of all that has to be overcome and borne and put up with by immigrants is a not-so-subtle mirror of the experiences of the queer community, and what they’ve (we’ve?) had to overcome and bear and put up with.
(What a nice parallel, too, to have read this during AAPI Month and to be reviewing this during Pride, after having briefly celebrated Pride with my mother)