Grace Lin’s book “Dumpling Days” is a collection of journal entries that Pacy, the narrator, writes when she goes on a trip to Taiwan with her family for her grandmother’s 60th birthday. Pacy, as a young girl and a second generation Chinese American, has a different definition of “hometown” than her parents. She and her two sisters go to Taiwan to find the identity that has been lost in their life and to experience the cultural differences.
The book has a compelling title, which is also the marrow of the stories. Even though Taiwan is the land of her ancestors, when Pacy goes there, she does not understand the language, and feels in a completely new place. Dumpling is one of the few Chinese words Pacy can speak and the only Chinese food she had tried before, therefore, dumpling is the only connection between her and Taiwan. Although the language used in the book is simple, the reader is still able to experience Pacy’s feelings of loneliness and homesickness through the conversations between her family and her own thoughts. The book, through this dynamic thinking, shows not only the cultural difference but also the feeling of estrangement that Pacy experiences. In addition, the book is sparkled with many funny moments like the ice cream truck having the same sound as the garbage truck in Taiwan.
Through the journal entries of Pacy’s daily life in Taiwan, with all the troubles she encounters and the new cultural aspects she experiences (like the night market, the Chinese traditional dress, and pineapple cakes) the reader is able to feel Pacy’s hardship of being both a foreigner in a new country and a second generation immigrant caught between two cultures. At the same, time Pacy’s discoveries become the reader’s discoveries. We are able to learn the culture and food of Taiwan, such as ghost month, stinky tofu, and Chinese printing.
The book is an easy child read and takes about two hours to read through. The illustrations the narrator draws for each key event make the book more attractive and visually pleasing to young readers. Over all, the book beautifully encompasses the small setting of Pacy’s daily activities in Taiwan with providing a deep insight into what it is to be a second generation Chinese American child.