Wednesday, December 08, 2021

145. The Legend of Auntie Po

The Legend of Auntie Po. Shing Yin Khor. 2021. 290 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is a story about stories. This is a story about gods and men.

Premise/plot: The Legend of Auntie Po is a coming-of-age graphic novel. It is set in the American West (Nevada, to be precise) circa 1885. Mei, our young heroine, helps her father who is the chief cook for the logging camp. Mei's specialty is making/baking pies. And her pies are quite beloved. But she isn't known just for making pies, no, she's also known (and beloved) for telling stories. Her stories center around a larger-than-life figure, Auntie Po, who knows more than a thing or two about the logging life. What is less clear for Mei, though less clear may not be the best way to describe it, is the future. She has hopes and dreams--for sure--and she knows exactly what she wants from life. But she isn't sure that her happily ever after is even remotely, remotely possible. It seems far-fetched. Like seeing Auntie Po in real life is WAY more likely than having her dreams actualized. But are all things possible?

Life is hard. It's hard for loggers in general--if by hard you mean physically exhausting and sometimes dangerous--but for the Chinese immigrants in particular it is made more difficult. Politics and racial tension. Even those with the best of intentions--who are making an effort to be good and kind and just--can stumble and fall. Like the log camp foreman. He comes into the story as a boss, true, but also as the father of Mei's best-best-best-best-best friend Bee (or Beatrice). Mei is totally head over heels in love with Bee. (Does Bee love her in that way too??? Is it unrequited???  Requited??? Definitely working mainly with non-verbal body language. Perhaps in part because it is a graphic novel. So much of the story is communicated through the illustrations.)

My thoughts: This was not a good fit for me. Reading is 100% subjective. That's why I did my best to stay completely objective in the summary. But graphic novels are so rarely my thing. This offers a blend of coming-of-age, first crushes (same-sex crush in this instance), fantasy, history, POLITICS and RACE. There are a couple of dramatic action scenes. But mainly readers are in Mei's head exploring her thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams. I don't know if I wanted a more central focus or what exactly it was that kept me from really enjoying this one. I don't know if a fresher acquaintance with Paul Bunyan would have helped or not.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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