The Silence That Binds Us — Joanna Ho

The Silence That Binds Us — Joanna Ho

The Silence That Binds Us is a YA contemporary novel about a Chinese Taiwanese American teenager whose family deals with grief and the underlying racism they must face when tragedy strikes and unsettles an entire community. The premise resonated with me a lot as a fellow Asian American, especially when I think back to my teenage years.

It is something a lot of minorities can relate to quite well: something bad happens to us, but in the end, somehow, we are to blame for it. In this case, the book deals with a family who loses a loved one to depression, but for some bizarre reason, a rich parent decides to blame the family and the Asian community itself, for “putting so much pressure” on their kids and “making it impossible for other kids to compete.” Of course, neglecting that rich dad foots the bill for his kid’s extra lessons, extracurriculars, and internships. But, logic is subjective, I guess.

(I’m salty about this, because something similar happened at my high school… which is also in the Bay Area, lol)

What I respected about this book was that yes, it definitely touches upon the grief of losing a loved one, but also acknowledges the grief of having one’s identity torn apart to benefit the status quo. It’s not something I see a lot of in YA books, or explored to at this level. It goes into the model minority myth and allyship with other communities; some of it wasn’t introduced smoothly, but we have not yet reached a point where these things are a given. In this regard, I have a lot of patience for info chunks. People who are already familiar with these concepts can skim, but those who don’t can learn a lot.

I also liked that the MC, May, is Taiwanese American, but acknowledges her own shortcomings when dealing with racism. I can’t say any more without spoiling, but it was nice that it was a learning experience (and curve!) for her as well.

Key words to help you decide: YA contemporary, family, Asian American MC, single (first-person) POV, high school, dealing with tragedy, grief, racism, San Francisco Bay Area, battling stereotypes

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