Set in the early eighties, Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang is a graphic novel that shares the challenges faced by Chinese children who were “dropped off” with friends or relatives in foreign countries while their parents stayed behind. Hoping to provide a better life for their children, these parents often missed out on the trials endured by their offspring. Without the supportive nurturing and guidance of their parents, these youth faced the challenges of a new country, culture, and language.

Arriving in California from Taiwan, Ke-Gāng, Feng-Li, and Jia-X are soon “abandoned” by their parents, whose Visas require them to return to their home country. Before departing, Mama gives each of her children American names. Ke-Gāng becomes Jason, Jia-X will be Jessie, and Feng-Li’s new name is Ann. Ten-year-old Feng-Li is initially excited about the potential adventure, but she soon finds herself lonely and friendless. Her fourteen-year old brother and sixteen-year-old sister have their own challenges, navigating peer groups, forming an identity, and managing a household.

As the trio individually struggles to fit in and to find a sense of belonging, Feng-Li begins to worry that they are easily left behind. After all three young people make their own brand of bad choices, they find themselves in a tense and tangled situation, wondering if they can survive.

As Tang explores both the emotional and the logistical complexities faced by undocumented children, the reader rides along with the three siblings to experience their efforts, failures, and sacrifices.

  • Posted by Donna

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