Stacy Palmer almost never thinks about being Chinese American, As far as she's concerned, she's just like everyone else.
Then Hong Ch'un comes to Stacy's school from China. Stacy and Hong Ch'un don't exactly get along, but when Hong Ch'un is accused of stealing and runs away, Stacy bows she must try to find her.
With her family's help, Stacy searches the tiny back streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. There, she gets a glimpse of what it was like for her Chinese mother, growing up in a different culture. And for the first time in her life she realizes her true heritage-and finally understands what it means to be Chinese American.
About the Author
Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.
Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.
Read an Excerpt
"Whoa, you're not taking cold spareribs to school." Mom sprang to the refrigerator faster than a speeding bullet.
I held on to the Tupperware container of the delicious spareribs that Tai-Paw, my great-grandmother, had made. "They've got a microwave in the teachers' lounge, and for a rib Mrs. Anderson will let me heat them up."
"Right." Mom snatched the container out of my hands and put it back in the refrigerator. 'And if you think I believe chat one, try selling me the Golden Gate Bridge, You can take some salad. Your dad made it for you special."
"He makes it with raw vegetables, and they're too crunchy. Last time I almost broke a filling on a carrot." Putting my hand into the pocket of my jeans, I figured I had enough money for lunch, so I started to ease toward the door.
Mom must have eyes in the back of her head, though, because she reached behind her and caught me without even looking. 'A slice of pizza and a Coke are not a good meal."
"Neither is ice cream," I pointed out. "But you've been known to binge."
Mom did what she always does when she is losing an argument: She changed the topic. Getting out another Tupperware container, she filled it with rabbit food, got a plastic fork, and put it all I into a paper bag. "Get home early tonight, will you? We really ought to eat together more often. I talked to your dad, and we'll both make efforts to have meals as a family. In any case, I need you to put on the rice."
It was a small enough chore, but it was the principle of the thing. After all, I had to be free to handle important stuff. "Can't Tai-Paw do it?"
Mom's voice took on the sharp, disapproving edge that I'd heard sooften. "Tai-Paw is not our maid," she snapped.
Mom was right. I did take Tai-Paw for granted. She was always this friendly but alien presence. Most of the time she stayed in her room watching the Chinese cable stations on TV. Feeling guilty, I promised. "Okay, the rice will be ready."
Mom fiddled with her charm bracelet the way she did whenever she was ill at ease. The little jade owl danced as she played with it. "Honestly, sometimes I don't know what's wrong with you. You were the one who complained that we never did things together."
I was going to say that she was the psychologist, but I bit my tongue. After all, it would be nice to eat together for a change. We were all so busy that we rarely got to do things as a family. "Sorry," I said, I seemed to be apologizing to my mother almost every day for some failure.
"'Sorry' doesn't hack it," Mom said snippily. "Think before you speak, and only say something when you mean it.
I threw up my hands in unconditional surrender. "Even when I agree with you and apologize, I'm in the wrong."
As I headed for my bicycle in the garage, Mom stopped me. "I'm sorry, honey. This isn't the way I meant to start out your day."
I merely grunted. "I know, you have a lot on your mind."
She fussed over my collar like she used to do when I was small. Then I had liked the attention; but as I grew older, I came to see it as yet another form of criticism. "You've got high school next year," Mom said, "and college will be coming up before you know it. You have to learn to apply yourself more. We won't always be around to bail you out."
I pulled away. "I can handle things. I just may not do it your way."
Mom turned her fussiness to her bracelet instead, jiggling the little owl charm. "You're not as grown-up as you think."
I tried to remember the last time Mom and I'd had a pleasant, comfortable chat, and couldn't. "The rice will be ready," I said, and threw her a salute.
Mom turned me toward the front door. "You don't need to ride your bike today. Your dad will take you to school, and you can catch a bus home with Hong Ch'un."
Dad never gave me a lift to school. My parents were obviously up to something. "Who's Hong Ch'un?"
Mom rushed over to the counter to cram some exam papers into her briefcase. "You remember Mr. Wang? The one who works with your dad?"
I recalled a Chinese man in his late thirties with very good posture and a nervous laugh. "Yeah. The Chinese guy who couldn't talk to anyone in Chinese."
Hastily Mom began hunting through a pile of papers on the table. "Now I know those lecture notes are here somewhere." As she searched, she went on. "Mr. Wang speaks Mandarin, the Chinese dialect from up north. We speak Cantonese." Or rather, Mom and her friends did. "Well, he's brought his wife and daughter over from China. We thought it would be nice to have dinner with the Wangs tonight."
So I was going to get caught in another one of Mom's Chinese love fests. As Dad said, you can take the girl out of Chinatown, but you can't take the Chinatown out of the girl. Even though we now lived some fifty miles south of San Francisco's Chinatown, Mom still tried to recapture the feeling of her old neighborhood. If anyone from Chinatown moved into Almaden, she made a point of snaring them and including them in her network of ex-Chinatowners, and lately she had been broadening her invitations to include anyone Chinese, no matter where they came from.Thief of Hearts. Copyright © by Laurence Yep. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.