My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I live in the City of Buffalo. The Queen City. Nestled in the Western region of New York State, with a sizeable immigrant and refugee population. We have people from many different countries. It’s a city brimming with diversity and I love it! There’s so much we can learn from one another if we are willing. Relationship is key. It amazes me that when we get the chance to know someone better, we find that there is room to celebrate those things that connect us as well as the things that make us unique. Front Desk was one of those stories that gave me a chance to go behind the veil and learn from an experience that is unlike my own. There is something to be said about the power of story to bridge the gaps that divide. Front Desk is one of those stories.
Mia Tang’s family immigrated from China to the United States with high hopes and expectations for living the good life in America. Or at the very least, being able to live a life that included having the basic necessities of shelter, food, and clothing. Mia would have never imagined that she’d end up working alongside her parents at the front desk of the Calivista Motel in California. Initially, it is an answer to prayer. It satisfied their immediate need for employment and a place to stay but they soon find out that Mr. Yao, the motel’s owner, is in every way a terrible boss. He takes advantage of the Tang’s situation for his own gain, discriminates against people he would rather not serve (the “bad people”) in his motel, and has no real interest in the community his motel occupies space in. His moral deficiency, however, cannot dim Mia’s shine.
Mia gets acclimated to her new life, going to school and making new friends, all while running the front desk of the motel. She goes from lacking confidence in her ability to learn English well, to finding her voice through writing. Writing thank you notes to customers and messages to classmates (who won’t return her pencil). And when she realizes the power she yields through the written word, she begins to write letters that affect change; for herself, for her family, and for those she cares about most. Mia is compassionate and courageous and not afraid to stand up for what is right. She is creative and full of great ideas that she uses to help others, effectively doing her part to make the world a better place for other immigrants and guests at the motel.
Kelly Yang tackles tough issues like racism, discrimination, and anti-immigrant sentiment head on through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl and it’s great because Front Desk opened my eyes to a side of the story that I seldom get to see. The hardship. The struggle. The reality of what many immigrants face in our country. It is painfully ugly that there are those who would take advantage of people who are struggling with trying to make a way in the United States. Still, Front Desk leaves me feeling hopeful because much like Mia, we can all do our part to be the change we want to see in the world. Please do read and share this book widely with your students. You will love it.
One last note: I love that the reader will get to see Mia grow and learn as a writer. Mia’s letters reflect the revision process. She also makes use of a dictionary and thesaurus to select the best words to use to get her point across. I just love this!!
Kelly Yang | http://kellyyang.edu.hk/about-kelly-yang/
Arthur A. Levine Books
An Imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Book Excursion | PLN Group of Rockstar Reading Educators| #BookExcursion