Front Desk – Kelly Yang



Walker Books

August 2018

ISBN: 9781760650469
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

In a time when so many people are fighting so hard to achieve worldwide tolerance, empathy, inclusivity and acceptance seemingly against huge odds like powerful politicians, this book will bring to readers a real insight into the plight of immigrants.

Based on her own experience as the child of Chinese immigrants to the USA, Kelly Tang relates ten year old Mia’s account of the first few years for her family in America, wealthy land of the free and opportunity for all.

Mia and her parents come to America with high hopes after leaving the poverty of China behind. But the reality is far from their dreams. Despite having skills and qualifications Mia’s parents struggle to find even meanly-paid work in the US and the family live in their car while trying desperately to gain some foothold. When an opportunity to manage a small hotel with free accommodation comes along, the family are beside themselves with joy and relief. But owner, Mr Yao, is a mercenary exploiter who makes their lives incredibly difficult and at times even more impoverished. Along with this Mia is trying to fit in at a new school, where the boss’ son Jason is the only other Asian student in her class and like his father is unpleasant and nasty.

Her sojourn in the motel as she helps her parents by taking charge of the front reception desk opens Mia’s eyes to the extreme racism and exploitation exhibited by many Americans, including their own Asian boss. It is a sobering and depressing insight into a society that ostensibly prides itself on being the refuge of Liberty – “Give me your tired, your poor”.

One small girl is determined to overcome her language barrier, her lack of confidence and to make a stand against discrimination.  Mia’s journey is one of hope and inspiration and this novel would make a superb read-aloud for middle to upper primary classes paving the way for some deep conversation about equity and compassion.

This is beautifully written and Mia’s voice is compelling as she fights her battles with dignity and honesty.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards

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