Friday, February 24, 2012
When we talked about cultural children's literature in my children's lit class, we said there were two different kinds. Culturally specific books and culturally generic books. This can also be applied to young adult literature, and this book specifically, because it gives a look at two cultures completely different than ours. Chinese and gay culture. Money Boy by Paul Yee gives a good look at these two cultures, and also shows what happens when they are combined. It also was a Printz honor book this year. And I definitely think it deserves that honor.
Money Boy is about Ray Liu, a young high school Canadian immigrant from China. He doesn't do well in school, and his father favors his step-brother over him, because he's more successful. When his father finds out that he's been looking at gay websites, he kicks Ray out of the house and he's forced onto the streets on his own. He explores the gay neighborhood of Canada, where he learns the reality of those that are just like him. Could he really sell himself for sex? Ray is about to find out.
The first thing I noticed about this book was the voice that Paul Yee writes in. It really sounds like someone who's first language isn't English, and while this could be bothersome to the reader, I really didn't think it was. I thought it fit the character of Ray perfectly, and it brought the novel to a whole new level. The fact that Ray also calls his parents what he would call them in China (specifically his dad, since his mom is still in China) added to the cultural authenticity of the book. This brings me back to the point I made earlier about cultural specific and culturally generic books. This book would definitely be culturally specific because you can't place someone of a different culture into the character of Ray. His actions and thoughts are very specific to the fact that he's Chinese and gay, and I think it's great that Yee created a book like this. There are still so many books with white, straight protagonists that reading a book that doesn't have one of these is such a breath of fresh air.
Besides accurately portraying Chinese immigrant culture, Yee also shows the brutal life of kids who are kicked out of their home because they're parents don't agree with the fact that they're gay. A lot of them do end up on the streets, just like Ray did, and are forced into the prostitute market, what Ray calls money boys, in order to make money and survive. I think we'd like to think that this is getting better, but in reality, we still have a long way to go. Publishing books like this will open people's eyes to the fact that this is going on (even though it is set in Canada, Canada is very close to the US, so it's likely to happen here as well) and maybe make them want to do something about it. I hope this book inspires others to write about this same subject, and maybe if enough people do, something will change for these kids. They deserve a better life than that.
Anyway, what will I be reading next? Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. It's a book I've wanted to read for a while, so I'm glad I finally get the chance to! OH!!! JK Rowling also announced that she will be publishing an adult novel sometime this year. So excited for that! It's sure to be fantastic :)