A Suitcase of Seaweed Review

suitcase_of_seaweedA Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poemsby Janet S. Wong

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1996. 978-0689807886.

Synopsis: A series of poems that celebrates the author’s Korean, Chinese, and American heritage that are free-flowing, honest, and humorous takes on family and who we are.

Why I picked it up: The title caught my attention as I was browsing for books in my library catalog.

Why I finished it: While what I know about Asian cultures could probably fill a small pamphlet, I will never be able to truly identify what it means to be an Asian American. The differences between the two cultures may seen to us foreign, but it helps in defining who we are. Wong’s poems are not only a series of memories and stories about her life and how she relates to her roots, they are an invitation to think about how we see ourselves and how we identify with our own roots. As a first generation Chinese/Korean-American, Wong comes from cultures steeped in tradition and from these poems we can understand just how precious these traditions are to her as an individual and how they matter to her family. It provides insight to children of different ethnic backgrounds about prejudice, personal identity, and the struggle to keep the new with the old that so many are confronted with each day. Short, simple, and eloquent, Wong has given the reader a family album beautifully captured in words that come from having a sense of personal pride in oneself and one’s family.

Other related materials: Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong, illustrations by Margaret Chodos-Irvine; Good Luck Gold and Other Poems by Janet S. Wong; Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis; Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang; Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez; The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sis; The Whole Story of a Half Girl by Veera Hiranandani

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