The Great Wall of Lucy WuSpring 2011 Fiction
Lucy’s parents don’t appreciate her passion for playing basketball as much as they do her older sister Regina’s mastery of Chinese language and culture or her older brother Kenny’s genius math abilities. But she figures they can’t stop her from having a fantastic sixth-grade year; Regina will go to college and leave Lucy with her own room, and as a sixth grader with seniority, Lucy will surely get the captaincy of the basketball team. She hasn’t reckoned on a Saturday Chinese school opening in town that meets at the same time as basketball, or on her great-aunt Po-Po coming to live with them and staying (where else?) in the room Lucy was supposed to have all to herself. Her parents can make her share a room and miss basketball, but they can’t make her be gracious about it. Lucy is determined to shut Po-Po out, even as she slowly begins to realize that Po-Po might be the only person in her family who really notices and appreciates Lucy’s abilities and her troubles.
Young readers will enjoy this humorous, warm, and entertaining story. Lucy may be fallible and petty at times, but she is also an insightful and sympathetic companion for this narrative journey, and the reader can’t help hoping for her success despite her many missteps. The novel also engages with questions of assimilation and ethnic identity in interesting ways. Is Lucy required to like Chinese food, and is she self-hating if she doesn’t? Is she allowed to like basketball more than Chinese school? When and why does learning Chinese stop feeling like an oppressive requirement and start feeling like a personal choice? Young readers with a broad range of interests will enjoy this novel about the power of intergenerational connections, team sports, and, of course, food.