Front Desk

by Kelly Yang

Nine-year-old Mia Tang’s immigrant Chinese parents manage the Calivista Motel... read more

Nine-year-old Mia Tang’s immigrant Chinese parents manage the Calivista Motel in Anaheim. Because the job comes with a room to live in, and because their family has been homeless on and off since coming to the United States, Mia’s parents won’t complain to Mr. Yao, the owner, about his unfair labor practices. Outgoing Mia likes helping out at the front desk. She checks short-term guests in and becomes friends with the “regulars,” customers who live there, while unofficial guests—Chinese immigrants her parents occasionally let stay for free when Mr. Yao isn’t around—give her an even deeper understanding of how immigrant workers can be threatened and exploited. Mia’s English is more proficient than her parents, although, her mom cautions, not good enough to be a writer, Mia’s dream. It’s a remark made out of the concern that Mia be realistic, but it cuts deep, undermining Mia’s confidence. Mia is a natural optimist, however. She’s also precocious and determined, whether entering an essay contest to win a hotel in Vermont, fighting back against racism faced by an African American resident, or pulling off an incredible organizational coup. The results of her efforts are not only satisfying, but firmly grounded in this upbeat, engaging novel’s realm of possibility. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2019

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