Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz

Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz is the story of a young American growing up in China. At the age of 11, Jean has never set foot on American soil, but she dreams of the day when she will get to experience typical American childhood events: feeding chickens at her grandmother's farm, roller-skating, saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school. On the other hand, she loves her life in China, too. This fictionalized memoir is a lovely description of a young girl who is, in many ways, torn between two countries. Fritz obviously remembers vividly what it is to be a child -- young Jean struggles with her parents' expectations that she be a "good" girl. "Sometimes, I don't even try [to be good]," she admits in a letter to her grandmother.

When a friend passed this book along to me, I thought that I had never read it -- but as I read, I found that certain mental images echoed back from my childhood: the junks on the Yangtze, the chef with his long fingernails and his elaborate butter pagodas, the little boy who calls Jean a "foreign devil" and with whom she shares an orange. I must have read this at some point in the deep and dusty past. While the descriptions of Fritz's China are, by now, somewhat dated, her descriptions of her childhood feelings are timeless.

(Reviewed from a secondhand copy given to me by a friend.)

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