Title: Our Wayward Fate
Author: Gloria Chao
Publication Date: October 15th, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Romance, contemporary
Age Range: YA
It’s Taiwanese and resilient, just the way I like it.Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao, pg. 65
As soon as I read the synopsis for Our Wayward Fate, I knew it was going to be one of my all-time favorites – and I’m happy to say I wasn’t wrong. It is exactly the kind of book that I needed when I was in high school, when I was still struggling to overcome the subconscious shame in my identity that developed when I was going to a very white-centric elementary school. Our Wayward Fate is about complex family ties as well as who we are individually, and is jam packed with a refreshing sense of humor that doesn’t detract from the ways in which people of color can be isolated in a supposedly tight-knit town.
Our Wayward Fate tells the story of Ali Chu, a Taiwanese-American teenager living in a suburban (white) community in Indiana. To fit in, Ali has to snuff out even the most minute indicators of her culture that set her apart from everyone else. She has to learn to ignore casual – and not so casual – racism and stay silent about the assumptions people make about her, including the pronunciation of her name, which is supposed to be Āh-lěe instead of Allie. Her tentatively peaceful existence is disrupted when Chase Yu arrives at her school, and people automatically push them together because they are both Taiwanese. As much as Ali and Chase try to ignore the way everyone else believes they belong together, they inexplicably form a bond over their shared culture and the inside jokes and comfort that come along with finally being able to be exactly who they are – Taiwanese pineapple cakes in the midst of dry toast.
My mom believes in magic penises.Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao, pg. 1
I can honestly say that no book has ever made me laugh as much as Our Wayward Fate. From the very beginning (literally, since that quote is the first line of the book), Gloria Chao’s voice comes across strong and clear. This book was something I could only ever dream of coming to life, and holding it in my hands was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Gloria Chao embeds wit and sarcasm into Our Wayward Fate so seamlessly, while also tackling the significant amount of racism that Asian people face on a daily basis, even from people we consider friends. I think one of the things that’s so special about the book is that it can resonate with people on so many levels, whether it be about the emotional distance felt between generations, feeling too American for some and too Asian for others and therefore not knowing quite how you fit in anywhere, or holding on tight to something that makes you feel grounded in your culture in a sea of dry toast.
“She called you a turtle’s egg,” Chase answered honestly, leaving out that he was giving the direct word-for-word translation and not what the term actually meant to Chinese folks, which was, for some reason, “son of a bitch.”Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao, pg. 98
I don’t think I knew just how much I needed this book until I saw the Mandarin on the page, accents and all. Back in middle and early high school, and before I got so overwhelmed by school I couldn’t make time for anything else, I was devouring books as fast as possible. I would read 3-4 books a week, and still want more. But among all of those books, no matter how much I related to a character or wanted to relate to them, there were very few who actually represented me as a whole person. Because of that lack of representation, for a long time, my standards weren’t very high. I’d latch onto the bare minimum, including artificial sounding Mandarin with no tones, spoken by a half Chinese character written by a white author. Our Wayward Fate showed me that you can have it all. You can have jokes in two languages, and Asian characters who are feminist and badass, and vulnerable, and frustrated, and flawed, and so much more – because we are so much more.
This book was made for me. In many ways, I was like Ali at the beginning of the book, keeping my head down and letting what I thought were insignificant microaggressions pass over me because it was too exhausting to call them out and explain how racist they were. I swapped my own congee for plain, white bread sandwiches when I made the switch from a classroom of other third graders who looked like me to a classroom where I was one of three Asian kids, who also happened to always sit together. I’ve had friends tell me I should date the Asian boy who just walked into the room, despite them not knowing anything about him other than the fact that he was Asian. Like Ali and Chase, I don’t like talking to my non-Asian friends about my parents, or anything else they might find “restrictive” about my culture, because in doing so, they think they have an invitation to criticize something they know nothing about. I saw so much of myself and my friends in Our Wayward Fate, and I’m absolutely overjoyed that a book like this exists.
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