Tiger Daughter

Authored by Rebecca Lim
Published by Allen and Unwin

Tiger Daughter tells the story of the struggles of Wen Zhou and her family (Chinese Immigrants, living in Australia). It is quite a heavy read. But although it deals with issues such as suicide, racial abuse and domestic violence; it is ultimately a story of friendship, hope and finding your voice.

This is an authentic, ‘own voices’ story. Many readers will relate to Wen’s life as a first-generation immigrant. Sadly, the authoritarian parent will also be familiar to many readers. Every aspect of Wen’s life is closely controlled by her father and her mother submissively goes along with it all. Living in fear, they must stick to Mr Zhou’s tight regime and withhold their own hopes and dreams.

The story begins in the classroom where Wen and her best friend Henry (also, a Chinese immigrant) are taking catch up English lessons. We learn that both Wen and Henry are to sit an entrance exam to allow them a chance to study at a selective school. This will secure their chances to succeed in the future. It felt hopeful as I read the prologue and the first chapter. I was sure it would go on to tell us how Henry helped Wen to believe in herself and how they support each other despite adversities. I was half right but did not expect the tragic twist that was to come. The prologue is titled ‘The Day Before Things Were Never The Same Again’should really have prepared me a bit. However, I was not expecting the ill fate that was to befall Henry in Chapter Two. It shook me quite deeply and forced me to continue to read.

Henry’s tragic news leaves him in such a state, that he is unable to leave the house and will not be prepared to take the entrance test. Wen’s kindness and love for her friend see her finding ways to coax him into studying at home. Despite the strict routine imposed on her by her overbearing father, Wen is determined to support her friend through this difficult time. When Wen’s father finds out that she, along with her mother have been sending food to the family, he forbids them from continuing to help.

However, Wen has sown the seed of rebellion in her mother too. As they support Henry and his father, Wen’s mother begins to help others in the community. Mrs Zhou realises she has more to offer the world than waiting on her husband. Wen and her mother must now take their newfound strength and resilience one step further and soften her father’s resentful anger.

I found this story to be painful, tense and deeply saddening in parts, but incredibly heartwarming too. Wen’s kindness and strength of character is inspiring. This story will leave young readers filled with empathy and hope for what they can achieve.

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