Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is a light, fluffy read that has made me feel hopeful and happy. Love stories come in all types of forms but this one was different. The characters had unique personalities and the story isn’t a perfect ending. Lara Jean and Peter’s mannerisms made for a comedic and relatable read. It was a refreshing change of pace from other love stories. If you would like to read something lighthearted and cute this is the book. It’ll keep you captivated until the very end leaving you wanting more.

I was so ecstatic to find out that there was more to the series. Throughout the series, I felt that I was able to see the character development and the gain of knowledge and wisdom as they get ready for college. I know that it’s only a story but it’d be nice to have that same whimsical outlook on life like Lara Jean does. She truly gets to live the romance novel she reads daily; From having her lover to the evil ex who has a change of heart. As Lara Jean once said, “I’d always fantasized about falling in love in a field, but I just never thought it’d be the kind where you played lacrosse.”

-Coralie D.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Need a new show? Try Fresh Off The Boat!

Fresh Off the Boat (TV Series 2015–2020) - IMDb
Just look at this loveable family you will get to follow!

With summer around the corner, everybody needs some light and fun television shows to watch to fill the time. One of my favorite genres of television is sitcoms and I have watched many that have come to my liking. Today I am recommending Fresh Off the Boat! This sitcom originally started airing in 2015 but currently has 6 seasons with the idea that there will most likely be a season 7. So do not worry, there is plenty of content to keep you busy.

Fresh off the Boat stars a Chinese family moving from a majority Chinese town in DC to the majority white in Orlando, Florida. This show takes place in the 1990s which I believe is the icing on the top for this show. The mother, Jessica, is your typical tiger Asian mom. She attempts to control the lives of her three sons: Eddie, the teenager who only wants to play video games, Emery, the perfect son, and Evan, the young smartie pants who skips a grade. There is also the dad, Louis Huang, who runs a bbq restaurant and is your classic funny carefree dad.  At the same time, Jessica attempts to fit in with the white neighborhood moms group. We get to see how it was like for an Asian family to enter a majority white area in the 1990s. Hence the name Fresh Off the Boat, meaning they are basically fresh immigration with little idea of how things work in a suburban area. 

The story mainly revolves around Eddie, the oldest child. One of my personal favorite scenes of the entire show is in the first episode. Eddie goes to school and is made fun of for his Chinese lunch. All he dreams of having for lunch is Lunchables so he can be cool, it seems we all had the idea of what is cool even in the 1990s! He goes to the market and gets to pick out the cool “white people food” as he calls it and boosts his confidence. This show is full of comedy that keeps you laughing for the entire episode. 

Nonetheless, my favorite character has to be Jessica Huang, the overprotective mother. We slowly get to witness her mellow out her ways and become more of a relaxed parent. Do not get me wrong, one of my favorite parts of the show is getting to watch her be the typical tiger mom with a twist of a comedic side. She always rocks her 1990’s fashion to no end that makes her a character that you cannot just help but adore.

If you need a new show to watch I would seriously recommend watching Fresh Off the Boat as soon as possible!!

-Lilly G.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems is the third and final book of the series Crazy Rich Asians, which looks at the powerful families of Singapore and their insane shenanigans. Rich People Problems takes place two years after the evens of ‘China Rich Girlfriend’, and Nick and Rachel are happily married and living in Manhattan, when Nick gets a call from his mother, Eleanor Young, that his grandmother, Su Yi is in the hospital from a heart attack and that Nick should come and make up with her before she dies. Nick, after being estranged from her for years after Su Yi refused to let him marry Rachel, feels guilty and decides to see after encouragement from Rachel. Meanwhile, the entire Shang-Young clan goes out to visit Su Yi to get in her good graces and hopefully be put in her will. Eddie Chang, who believes that he has a shot of inheriting Tyersall Park, Su Yi’s home, refuses to let Nick see their grandmother, in fear that Su Yi will change it again. Meanwhile, Astrid Leong, Nick’s beloved cousin, is re-engaged to Charlie Wu, while facing roadblocks such as her scorned ex-husband, Michael Teo, and Charlie’s ex-wife, Isabel.

Rich People Problems is hilarious, and probably my favorite out of the trilogy, seeing the entire clan pay attention to Su Yi only when they want her money. The ending is unpredictable, and the different characters and personalities make it an extremely interesting read. I highly recommend reading Rich People Problems for those who like realistic fiction and humor.

-Kelsie W

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

The recent representation of Asian-Americans in film and literature has been thundering the media. From the more obvious success of Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat to the smaller-rooted Netflix film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (and it’s soon-to-be sequel), the portrayal of Asian families has skyrocketed, building new stepping stones in which the small society of its own is rendered in society as a whole.

Kelly Loy Gilbert’s second novel, Picture Us in the Light, is a beautifully crafted story revolving around the Asian-American cultural hub in San Francisco. Picture Us in the Light follows eighteen-year-old Danny Cheng, as he struggles with his pursuit of artistic inspiration (post-college acceptance to an art and design school) and finding footholds in his graying, mysterious family life. Accompanied by long-time friends Harry and Regina, Danny unearths his family’s deep past piece by piece and discovering small realizations about himself and the relationships he has with those he loves most in his life.

As Danny jockeys with the slow, difficult reveal of his parents’ secrets and tries to find some balance over what he does and doesn’t know about his own identity, the audience is presented with the intense and haunting realities of global immigration. Every turn of the page brought a new feeling of suspense — each time we were given new information, the plot became more and more complex, heading a dozen different ways at once.

Being Asian-American myself, I found the story delightfully relatable in a small-scale way that it was powdered with concise “Asian insider” instances that I could relate to — the abundance of food, the hefty trips to Costco and Ranch 99, the intensive preparation for big exams.

The featured family in the novel, the Chengs, center the majority of their conflicts and victories over meals, which is extremely relatable to me in the way that family bonds over food. Just this seemingly insignificant instance opens up huge discussion for literary meaning (communion occurs over cuisine, perhaps?), but also exhibits how striking and intimately real the characters and situations Gilbert creates are.

Picture Us in the Light, published just over a year ago, is one of YA’s most down-to-earth and honest storylines thus far. Gilbert brings together shattering occurrences with the small moments of merriment, joining together two of our center emotions into a heart wrenching and, slowly, heartwarming book.

     So, as we are, picture us enchanted by Gilbert’s authentic and profound capability for storytelling.

—Keira D.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Asian-American Representation Matters: Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching Are Only the Beginning

Recently, three remarkable and very popular movies have come out: Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching, all which feature Asian leads. These movies have become highly-acclaimed and well-loved, all garnering positive reviews and ratings. The three movies obviously are must-watches, but they mean something so much more to Asian-Americans: their positive, humanized representation in the media after a history of disparaging stereotypes.

Asian Americans have been mistreated by popular culture and media for decades, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and white-washing characters relentlessly. Asians are stereotyped as nerdy, anti-social, and unathletic; Asian women are seen as submissive and quiet and are sometimes over-fetishized, while Asian men are emasculated and seen as undesirable and unattractive. These are seen in popular movies from Breakfast in Tiffany’s to Pitch Perfect. The amount of blatant white-washing is almost uncountable; from Ghost in the Shell to The Great Wall to Doctor Strange, where roles that were meant for Asian actors were given to white people (one being Scarlett Johansonn, unsurprisingly), Asians are virtually invisible in the show business and subject to racial abuses.

Crazy Rich Asians is so important to change the perspective of Asians in the media. It is the first majority-Asian cast since Joy Luck Club, which was made 25 years ago. Crazy Rich Asians proves that Asians, despite popular belief, can do well in the box office: it is now the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.

After Crazy Rich Asians, many Asian Americans have taken to social media to express their gratitude and happiness for finally seeing people that look like them on the screen. Jeff Yang, an Asian journalist, tweeted “Why am I #ProudToBeAsian? I’m #ProudToBeAsian because I FINALLY feel like we’re being seen and heard.” He continued on to state how “all of my life, I’ve been told to hide my food, speak louder, hold my tongue, go back where I came from, break out of my box and now I literally DGAF what you have to say if you’re not coming with respect for me and my people.”

Another tweet by an Asian writer and director, Gary King, stated how it feels wonderful “to see [Henry Golding] on screen vs. what I grew up on (and was told by the media how they thought of me). Representation matters.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Henry Golding and contrasting photos of the negative, emasculated, racist portrayals of Asians in the media, such as Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, who was played by Michael Rooney wearing yellow-face and emphasized Asian stereotypes as a form of comedic relief.

Similarly, another tweet stated how “Representation matters. Not just for actors but for everyone who wants to see someone that looks like them in a big Hollywood movie. I hope this movie smashes records and shows young Asian Americans they can be the hero of their own story.”

There was even a viral thread made by Kimberly Yam, a journalist, who spoke about her moments of shame and realization growing up Asian in a world that “makes a mockery of our existence.” She explains how the people around her made her not want to be Asian anymore and how slowly she began to love her heritage and culture again; Crazy Rich Asians is a symbol of long-deserved victory.

Crazy Rich Asians is an incredible, but long-awaited development for Asian-Americans. Crazy Rich Asians was also followed by the popular Netflix film, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, which features Lana Candor, a Korean American actress, as the female protagonist. This is another development in changing the way Asians are viewed in the mass media. Even Lana Candor, the actress herself, has expressed surprise about landing the role.

“I never thought I would be so lucky to be the lead of a romcom,” said Lana Condor in an interview. “Simply because I don’t get those opportunities, for probably many reasons, but one of would likely be because I’m Asian. So when I got the audition and it said they were looking for an Asian American girl to play the lead love interest in a romcom, I was shocked. Truly. I just had never gotten that before.”

She continues on to say how Asians are rarely considered for movie roles. “I have had experiences where they say open to all ethnicities, and then I get there and it’s a bunch of blonde, blue-eyed beautiful ladies. And then myself,” said Condor. “And then I have to ask, why am I here? If we’re all auditioning for the same role, it clearly looks like you [the production] already have a picture in your mind.”

The writer of To All the Boys, Jenny Han, has also expressed how the film was almost white-washed. “Early on, I had conversations with producers who were interested in optioning the book, but the interest faded when I told them Lara Jean had to be Asian,” Han said. “They didn’t understand why she had to be Asian when there was nothing explicitly in the story that required her to be. For me, it’s not a matter of why, she simply is. And in a more equitable world, I wouldn’t have to justify that.”

To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved might have been an enjoyable, refreshing rom-com expressing young love to most people. To Asian-Americans, it is another step toward the journey of being accurately represented in the media.

Arden Cho, a Korean-American actor, expressed the importance of Lara Jean as the female lead. She states that as a child,  “I loved every romcom movie but they always made me feel like you had to be white to be beautiful, to fall in love, to be the lead . . . all I knew was I looked different and I hated it  . . . Seeing Lara Jean as the lead of [her] stor[y] was so powerful, so necessary.”

What is so important about To All the Boys is that Covey’s love life is not affected by her ethnicity. There are no stereotypes about her being a nerdy, quiet, or submissive Asian girl. To All the Boys normalizes the fact that all races fall in love and can have a cute love story — Asians included.

Finally, the most recent movie in theaters is Searching, a movie that features John Cho as the male protagonist, a father who is searching for clues about his missing daughter. This movie is also changing the narrative around Asian-Americans by featuring an Asian-American as a lead instead of a white actor. The movie has a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and many people have expressed their happiness that an Korean-American actor takes a role that would traditionally be played by white men.

The golden age of Asian-Americans is dawning. No longer will we be invisible. This time, we will not be quiet.

-Audrey X.