The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from b...

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Title:The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
Author:Wai Chim
Rating:

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling Reviews

  • CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    I don't remember the last time a book made me feel so vulnerable and raw. This book made me confront a lot of personal feelings about a lot of things, some of which were uncomfortable, but I think that's why this book is so important and necessary.

    is one of the most candid and honest portrayals of how mental illness intersects with Asian identity, culture, and values.

    Not only was this an effortless 5⭐ read, but this is a new all-time favourite book.

    Trigge

    I don't remember the last time a book made me feel so vulnerable and raw. This book made me confront a lot of personal feelings about a lot of things, some of which were uncomfortable, but I think that's why this book is so important and necessary.

    is one of the most candid and honest portrayals of how mental illness intersects with Asian identity, culture, and values.

    Not only was this an effortless 5⭐ read, but this is a new all-time favourite book.

    Trigger/content warnings:

  • Wendy

    Reasons to pick up The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling (out August 5th):

    - I literally finished this book in under 24 hours the first time I read it because of how immersive and engaging it was. If you’re looking for your next contemporary read this is a great pick

    - This book is about food and family (the bonds between parents and kids, and sibling relationships) which I loved for the realism as well as its really heartwarming moments

    - The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling explores the pro

    Reasons to pick up The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling (out August 5th):

    - I literally finished this book in under 24 hours the first time I read it because of how immersive and engaging it was. If you’re looking for your next contemporary read this is a great pick

    - This book is about food and family (the bonds between parents and kids, and sibling relationships) which I loved for the realism as well as its really heartwarming moments

    - The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling explores the protag’s mother’s mental illness and the impact of that on her family, and this kind of intersectionality is rare and so needed. Great for fans of The Astonishing Colour of After

    - The protagonist is (HK) Chinese-Australian! I’m grateful for the increasing #ownvoices Asian rep now but this is still lacking in Australia. This book will make a big difference to Asian teens/YA readers that don’t see themselves enough, and is an insightful story for everyone

    - I love that Cantonese is woven throughout the book. Foreign languages get Othered and diminished so much despite how multilingual Australia is, and this was really refreshing

    - There are snippets from the mother’s point of view, reminding me of the similarly poignant passages in Still Life with Tornado. Obviously the teen voice is key in YA but I love the way these parts holistically round out the family’s story

    - There’s a really sweet romance ❤️ and one particular aspect of their relationship made me laugh multiple times

    - It has a beautiful cover which clearly shows an Asian girl, again really rare in Australia and I’m so grateful it exists; the interior design is stunning as well

    - It comes with recommendations from amazing authors Alice Pung, Leanne Hall and Justine Larbalestier! 😄 so you don’t have to just take my word for it 😉

  • Jeann (Happy Indulgence)

    This review originally appeared on

    . Check it out for more reviews!

    Not only does it cover the mental illness and depression well, but it’s also balanced with equal parts warmth, of hope and of love and acceptance. I don’t know how Wai Chim does it, but The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling captures so much of my life growing up. From having strict, traditional Chinese-Australian parents, to the mental illness stigma and a sister having to take care of her siblings, there’

    This review originally appeared on

    . Check it out for more reviews!

    Not only does it cover the mental illness and depression well, but it’s also balanced with equal parts warmth, of hope and of love and acceptance. I don’t know how Wai Chim does it, but The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling captures so much of my life growing up. From having strict, traditional Chinese-Australian parents, to the mental illness stigma and a sister having to take care of her siblings, there’s so much here that captures life for me and my siblings.

    Often mental illness in Asian families is something to be shunned, something that is swept under the rug and wasn’t talked about. Instead of talking about it openly, and getting those affected the help that was needed, it was something to be ashamed of. Something that highlighted the weaknesses in one’s family. Something that was blamed on others. And all of that hurt, all of that pain is something that is captured in Good Dumpling. Not only is it covered empathetically, but it’s also done without blame.

    I loved the moments in Anna Chiu’s life where she finds love within her own family, despite the hardships they go through. She finds love out of being the “good daughter”, of helping her father look after his restaurant, of helping her mother look after her younger sister and brother. And she does all of this without question, because of her values of filial piety.

    I also loved the part where Anna Chiu helps out at her dad’s restaurant which adds a fun element to a book that covers a lot of ground. The parts with Ah Jeff and the rest of the staff were so much fun and showed how grounding a family business could be. I also loved all the descriptions of food, dumplings and noodle soup in the novel and how it talks about “westernised” Asian food as well as “real” Asian food which is something that is so accepted by Asians living in the West, but no one really talks about it!

    Although Anna has a lot on her plate helping out with her family and siblings, it’s amazing just how narrow-minded the education system can be. And that’s highlighted by her guidance counsellor pushing her towards a more “worthwhile” career that looks good on the books, and how her grades are everything. Anna doesn’t want to share her life story with her guidance counsellor for fear of backlash and of being judged, but I like how she speaks her mind about it.

    It’s often hard to balance stories about cultural attitudes and racism, but Good Dumpling covers the Chinese-Australian experience so well. I loved the discussions about microaggressions that Asians can face in Australia, like how everyone just pretends we’re any sort of Asian and thinks we speak for the rest of the race. Something that often isn’t talked about is the intrinsic racism that many of us have against other cultures too. It’s not perfect, but Good Dumpling covers it with such grace and honesty.

    Good Dumpling also covers an Asian dating someone who your parents didn’t expect you to: someone who is anglo-saxon (and not another Chinese). I loved how empathetic Rory was, and how his own experience with depression helped to open up Anna’s empathy and understanding when it came to her mother’s mental illness. How it’s an ongoing condition, and just because you “seem okay” at the time, doesn’t mean that you’re completely cured. Because in the end, that’s what this book is about – learning how to understand, manage and help with mental illness so you can function again.

    I’m a complete blubbering mess after reading The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, which moved me to tears upon finishing it. From the mental illness in the family, to caring for your siblings, and the Chinese-Australian experience growing up…I’ve never had a book that reflected my own experience so succinctly before. It’s a book that is heartwarming, meaningful and thoroughly important, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.

  • Annie

    A late night decision to start this book and keep reading was probably one of the smartest decisions I made. This wonderful story really touched my heart. A book that explores cultural clashes in the western world, bullying, racism and mental illness - a concept that many still do not fully understand and still holds cultural stigmas today. Wai did a fantastic job in capturing this from different angles - a family member watching another family member suffer from it, a friend who is listening to

    A late night decision to start this book and keep reading was probably one of the smartest decisions I made. This wonderful story really touched my heart. A book that explores cultural clashes in the western world, bullying, racism and mental illness - a concept that many still do not fully understand and still holds cultural stigmas today. Wai did a fantastic job in capturing this from different angles - a family member watching another family member suffer from it, a friend who is listening to another recovering from it and being subjected to ridicule and the person who is suffering from mental illness. This important concept was captured and weaved it into a touching YA story of unconditional love and real teen issues that made me cry, laugh and feel hope. There were times I even found it frightening and confronting. This was written very well, it was very realistic and a story that will probably resonate with me for some time. I was able to connect with Anna, Lily and even little Michael. I could understand why each character behaved the way they did throughout the book and I was also able to relate to some of the cultural expectations Anna was subjected to like how do you say what you really feel to your parents and still be their loving, dutiful daughter? No doubt on some level, everyone who reads this story will find a connection either with the themes explored or the characters we meet - side note - I love Rory.. This is such a great book, please read it when it’s out. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for providing me with a finished review copy of this book.

  • Libby Armstrong

    Spoiler alert - you’ll be obsessing over finding the perfect dumplings while reading Wai Chim’s new treasure of a story because it’s absolutely true. There is nothing more powerful than a good dumpling. It’s my go to pick me up every time. This novel packs a lot into its pages - the mental breakdown of a parent, the tightrope dance between family expectations and desires of teens straddling cultures, first love, and then there is a lot of dumplings. Sensitively written and relatable.

  • trufflebooks

    5/5 ⭐ absolutely loved it. Amazing read, binged it in a day and a half and didn't want to put it down. A must read, full RTC.

  • Trisha

    Don't know how I missed adding this one back when I read it. It's a lovely mix of sweetness and serious. It's an empathetic glimpse into culture and identity.

    Detailed and nuanced.

  • Cheska the Great is Not Okay

    Even though I knew going in that this book is about what it's like to have a loved one with mental illness, I did not expect it to be so

    --to the point that I couldn't read this book for more than 45 minutes at a time.

    This book brought me to tears. It explored the intersections between class, culture, immigration, family dynamics in the context of Chinese culture, and mental illness; and how eldest daughters receive the brunt of responsibility within

    Even though I knew going in that this book is about what it's like to have a loved one with mental illness, I did not expect it to be so

    --to the point that I couldn't read this book for more than 45 minutes at a time.

    This book brought me to tears. It explored the intersections between class, culture, immigration, family dynamics in the context of Chinese culture, and mental illness; and how eldest daughters receive the brunt of responsibility within Asian, specifically Chinese households, and it did so through beautiful writing and a relatable protagonist. One thing I did notice though was that this book wasn't about race in the context of being East Asian within White Australia--while racism is mentioned a couple of times, it is not the central theme of the book; rather, this focuses more on how Chinese people interact within their culture when class is involved. There is only one white character in the book which goes to show that this book wasn't highlighting the racism of white Australians more than it was about Chinese culture.

    My only gripe though is how in Chapter 9, Rory, Anna's white love interest, says something racist, which of course Anna understandably takes offense to. Rory apologizes and then informs Anna that what he did was a microaggression. This scene simply baffled me. If Rory had the knowledge that saying things like "I don't go to that suburb because it's too ethnic," is a racist microaggression, why would he do it? It's understood that well-meaning people perform microagressions because they are ignorant and don't know what is and isn't right to say or do, so why would he do it despite knowing what it is and that it's bad? What made this even more confusing was that Anna didn't even know what a microaggression

    and Rory had to explain it to her. So this scene was basically an older white guy apologizing for saying something racist, and then

    his younger Asian love interest about

    what he said was racist... instead of the other way around. Which made very little sense to me.

    But I digress.

    I remember loving Wai Chim's

    that I was so excited when I found out she was writing another book. While I still liked

    more,

    definitely did not disappoint.

  • Dimity Powell

    Chim's latest YA is a tempting hot pot of teenage coming-of-age angst, family values, cultural cohesion, mental health oh and yes, dumplings! This is a hearty, satisfying read about Anna, the eldest child in a Chinese immigrant family who rely on the family restaurant to survive. That premise alone could have been redolent with cultural stereotypical cliches however Chim has blended Anna's story with the careful addition of a host of interesting and authentic ingredients; characters like, Rory,

    Chim's latest YA is a tempting hot pot of teenage coming-of-age angst, family values, cultural cohesion, mental health oh and yes, dumplings! This is a hearty, satisfying read about Anna, the eldest child in a Chinese immigrant family who rely on the family restaurant to survive. That premise alone could have been redolent with cultural stereotypical cliches however Chim has blended Anna's story with the careful addition of a host of interesting and authentic ingredients; characters like, Rory, who is the local delivery boy for the restaurant and also, ultimately Anna's first love and savior.

    As Anna wallows through her 11th year in High School, she is repeatedly put upon to keep the home fires burning for her younger tween sister, Lily and 6-year-old baby brother, Michael. Their overworked father is rarely at home, dossing in the restaurant storeroom under a cover of avoidance.

    Perhaps the character that both disturbs and delights the most is Ma, Anna's mother whose typical tiger-mother Chinese reactions are tarnished by a crippling anxiety condition that effectively removes her from their lives as surely as if she were living in another country.

    Anna's own reactions are directed by her anxieties to be as 'normal' as possible and governed by her superstitious interpretations of all the 'signs' around her. It's a self-combusting combination that comes to a head after their mother is finally committed. Make sure you have a few tissues on hand as Anna gradually comes to realise the true essence of normal and love.

    I love the gentle way Anna's revelation is made in this story and how mental wellness is respectfully addresses; it somehow is so full of healthy conviction, real hurt and powerful hope. Good dumplings may not fix everything and in life you may 'dim sum and lose sum'! (sorry), but as in many cultures, the making, sharing and cherishing of good food, is at the heart of a strong family and healthy community. This book uses that premises to full sumptuous effect.

  • Emma

    For starters, this is probably the best

    novel I've read that deals with mental health issues. I think this is mainly attributed to two things:

    1) The characters are SO DAMN REAL.

    For the main characters, I feel like a lot of the nuance was found in the gap between how they conducted themselves in public in comparison to how they acted around the people close to them (and in the case of Anna, there's the third layer of her own internal thoughts). Which, of course, is also at the heart of one of

    For starters, this is probably the best

    novel I've read that deals with mental health issues. I think this is mainly attributed to two things:

    1) The characters are SO DAMN REAL.

    For the main characters, I feel like a lot of the nuance was found in the gap between how they conducted themselves in public in comparison to how they acted around the people close to them (and in the case of Anna, there's the third layer of her own internal thoughts). Which, of course, is also at the heart of one of the main social problems around mental health: it's really hard to detect what's happening under the surface because of these performative measures people put in place when they interact with one another.

    Even the nurses in the psych ward were startling real: they reminded me of the RNs and the carers I used to work with in a nursing home. Even the way the patients in the ward act in the book reminded me of the dementia residents I used to see (including the use of abhorrent language against staff).

    2) The narrative is A+

    I'm no longer a teen and I struggle to really connect with the romance plot-lines in YA novels, particularly heterosexual ones. Which is why I spend about two-thirds of the book shouting at Anna

    But it was pretty impressive that I was swung around. Definitely not the full way - I never completely trusted Rory's character (part of me is always going to be suss about adults dating minors). But Chim plots out the relationship really carefully and I think it's certainly the most natural relationship development I've seen in a YA novel.

    On a side note, I feel like John Larkin has already written a sequel to this book about Rory's story:

    Also, the "yo-yo" nature of mental health - as Lily puts it - is really well executed, and I think it was important to include an episode of relapse. I'm always a little uncomfortable with books that deal with mental health and then leave it at a rosy ending, so Chim's approach was much appreciated.

    All in all this was a really enjoyable read - and, yes, I mean that. It does go into dark places but that's just an inherent component of human existence and I think it was the book's willingness to put life into those areas which made it all the more brilliant.

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