Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown, the first in her family born in America, presents a child’s point-of-view on complex issues. Aoi, “Annie”, is a Japanese American, the daughter of two Japanese immigrants, and she has a love for theater. Annie goes through middle school and all the normal worries of a preteen; she is also forced to juggle uncomfortable emotions and visceral reactions that she does not know the source of. Although seemingly a story for younger audiences, I thoroughly believe that all audiences can benefit from reading Brown’s story. As she auditions for her middle school productions, she opens the door to the not-so-pretty realities of racism and classism and how they work together, privileging some people while oppressing others.
This story is written from the perspective of Annie, who doesn’t understand the harsh implications of her being a minority in this country and having immigrant parents. Not only this, but she starts to realize how different she is from her best friends. Living in Kansas, Annie is surrounded by white people who look nothing like her. That realization doesn’t tend to surface in us, however, until it is pointed out that we, Asian Americans, don’t look the same as the white people that we see on the silver screen and on magazine covers.
There is, however, one moment when Annie sees a TIME magazine with the caption, “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids”. With Asian people as the focus, of course the article is about the intelligence of the Asian American kids and their stellar test scores. Complex topics such as the Model Minority Myth are often difficult to wrap your head around, but Brown’s strategic choice of a young and naive perspective narrating the whole story allows the reader to also sit in that state of questioning and reflection that Annie has to endure.
There are other moments like this when Annie feels off about the way people are talking to her or about her, or when people get parts in plays that seem above their skill level, that make her question if the world is against her. She wants to become an actress but doesn’t see her representation in the media like she does of her white friends. Even Asian American characters in movies are played by white people. And when she questions that, her answer is some excuse about money and that being how show-business works, to which she replies, “But how do you get to be a big name if you’re never cast?”
Although Annie seemingly goes through quite the emotional turmoil at only the beginning of her teen years, her experiences represent the common struggle of being an Asian American in a country of white privilege. That being said, she works hard and learns lessons along the way, leading to the heartwarming conclusion that having big dreams is not something to shy away from and that breaking barriers is often how we reach them.