Book Reviews and Highlights

The Tiger Mom's Tale

Lyn Liao Butler

  • Asian American
  • Fiction
  • Alexa Thomas had just bitten into a sesame ball when her mother told her she was in love with a woman.
  • Chapter 1 | Page: 1
  • #first-sentence #sesame-balls
  • She was absorbed in the Chinese pastry, her eyes closed and her elbows propped on the marble countertop in her sister’s kitchen. Her teeth sank into the crispy exterior coated with sesame seeds, and just like the first time she’d eaten one in Taichung when she was eight, her taste buds exploded with the sweetness of the red bean paste in the center.
  • Chapter 1 | Page: 1
  • #sesame-balls #food-desc
  • She and her father rarely spoke these days, but she’d once cared for him. She’d thought he was so handsome in all his . . . Asianness, with the same black hair and square jaw she had.
  • Chapter 2 | Page: 11
  • #male-desc #asian-male-desc
  • “What did you bring for me?” she asked. “Your favorite— tian bu la.” Pong handed her a paper cup filled with fish paste that had been molded into balls and other shapes, deep- fried, and smothered in a brown sauce.
  • Chapter 3 | Page: 24
  • #taiwanese-food #food-desc #asian-food
  • He was tall for an Asian man, probably just shy of six feet, with a square jaw and jet- black hair that was long in the front.
  • Chapter 5 | Page: 35
  • #male-desc #asian-male-desc
  • He was a jolly man with a big laugh. Barrel- chested with a full head of shiny black hair, he was shorter than her father. He made Lexa think of an Asian Santa without the beard.
  • Chapter 5 | Page: 37
  • #male-desc #asian-male-desc
  • They had a late lunch of niurou mien at a noodle shop. Lexa slurped up the noodles, savoring the braised beef and the broth flavored with star anise, five- spice, peppercorns, garlic, and ginger.
  • Chapter 5 | Page: 38
  • #food-desc #asian-food
  • A hum of excitement hung in the air, and Lexa could make out the smell of barbecued meats mixed with aromas she wasn’t familiar with. One stall they passed had grilled squid stuck on a stick. Another stall featured giant vats of boiling water where different colored fish balls floated, ready to be scooped out and skewered.
  • Chapter 5 | Page: 39
  • #food-desc #asian-food
  • “Are you having fun?” Uncle Pong asked her. He handed her a bubble tea. She nodded as she sucked up a tapioca ball through the thick straw. “I’ve never seen so much food in my life.”
  • Chapter 5 | Page: 41
  • #asian-food #food-desc #boba
  • Jake had come to her rescue. One look into his kind green eyes, shining above a slightly crooked nose and a strong jaw with a dimple in the chin, and she was lost.
  • Chapter 6 | Page: 45
  • #male-desc
  • “As your body gets stronger, you’ll feel stronger emotionally too. You may not be able to change what your father says to you, but you can change how you react to it.”
  • Chapter 7 | Page: 50
  • #resilience #emotions
  • “This is four- spirits soup. All the herbs are in the packet: lotus seed, barley, gorgon fruit, Chinese yam, and poria cocos. It helps the digestive system. Pong will write the directions for you, but very easy to make.”
  • Chapter 8 | Page: 58
  • #asian-food #food-desc
  • “Asian women are like lotus flowers, ready to blossom under the right guy’s touch, and I think I’m that guy for you.” He reached out to caress her cheek. “I love the subservient manner of Asian women. You’re all so dainty.”
  • Chapter 14 | Page: 98
  • #yellow-fever #asian-female-desc #racism
  • Lexa drew back sharply. Oh, dear Lord, no. He was one of those— a guy with yellow fever, who loved Asian women unconditionally.
  • Chapter 14 | Page: 98
  • #yellow-fever #asian-female-desc
  • Phoenix was a slim woman with short, fashionably styled salt- and- pepper hair, and she wasn’t much taller than Lexa. She was dressed in a flowing tunic printed with large bright flowers over white leggings and gold strappy sandals.
  • Chapter 15 | Page: 102
  • #female-desc
  • “It’s when a guy is completely obsessed with Asian women. They only date women who are Asian. They don’t even care if she’s smart or interesting or pretty. As long as she’s Asian, they’re hooked. We call it yellow fever.”
  • Chapter 18 | Page: 120
  • #yellow-fever
  • She’d always suspected Pin- Yen of being a Tiger Mom, but this was the first time Hsu- Ling had acknowledged it.
  • Chapter 21 | Page: 140
  • #tiger-mom
  • She turned around to find a man of average height with light brown hair staring at her. There was nothing extraordinary about him except for his thick neck and beefy arms. They were enormous.
  • Chapter 36 | Page: 227
  • #male-desc
  • “Peace is the most powerful weapon on Earth.”
  • Chapter 40 | Page: 246
  • #peace
  • “Shi,” Lexa answered in Mandarin. “Wo shi zhongguo ren.” I am Chinese.
  • Chapter 40 | Page: 247
  • #chinese-language
  • “It takes a lot of courage to go back and face your past, to confront Hsu- Ling’s mother and to admit you want to know your Taiwanese heritage. I think you’re really brave, Lexa.”
  • Chapter 42 | Page: 258
  • #family
  • Lexa stood and took it all in, noting the Asian people with black hair and feeling that sense of belonging she’d felt when she’d been here the last three times.
  • Chapter 43 | Page: 265
  • #belonging #asian #identity
  • Lexa couldn’t keep the smile off her face as they walked through the doors into the terminal where people waited, some holding up signs written in Chinese. She was really here. She was back in her father’s land.
  • Chapter 43 | Page: 266
  • #homecoming #airport
  • Her mouth was pinched exactly the way Lexa remembered, as if she’d swallowed something sour. Her hair was pulled back in a severe bun, streaked with more gray than black now. Wrinkles furrowed her forehead, and because of the way her mouth was drawn together, Lexa could see the lines radiating from it.
  • Chapter 43 | Page: 269
  • #female-desc
  • She found herself enveloped in Ah- Ma’s arms, her face buried in her grandmother’s shoulder, and breathed in a combination of mothballs, tiger balm, and an herby scent that emanated from Ah- Ma.
  • Chapter 45 | Page: 280
  • #grandmother
  • Ah- Ma next focused on Lexa’s ears and continued speaking in Taiwanese. “And your earlobes are still big and fat, signifying good fortune and a good life.”
  • Chapter 45 | Page: 280
  • #asian-desc #face-reading
  • Lexa couldn’t speak. Her mouth was full, the delicately seasoned pork mixing with the strong flavor of the chives and brought together by the slightly spicy, tangy sauce, and she swore it was the best thing she’d ever had. Dumplings in America couldn’t even compare.
  • Chapter 45 | Page: 283
  • #food-desc #asian-food
  • Oranges, Chinese apples, melons, and other fruits she didn’t recognize; bowls of rice with meat; plates of vegetables and tofu; and cookies and numerous desserts were set out for her father and Pong.
  • Chapter 46 | Page: 287
  • #food-desc #asian-food
  • They’d eaten course after course of food: soups and platters of chicken, Chinese vegetables, tofu, oysters fried and also in soups, whole fish, bamboo shoots, noodles, and a whole bunch of stuff she’d never seen before. Bottles of beer had been passed around, and everyone had eaten until they were full.
  • Chapter 46 | Page: 288
  • #food-desc #asian-food
  • “Asians are often missing an enzyme that processes alcohol, so they tend to turn bright red after only one drink,” Hsu- Ling said.
  • Chapter 46 | Page: 288
  • #asian-glow
  • “I . . . all my life, I’ve been told women are worthless. My father ruled our house, and my mother and I couldn’t do anything without his permission.”
  • Chapter 50 | Page: 314
  • #sexism
  • He walked toward her, dressed all in black. “Ni shi zhongguo ren?” She nodded. “Wo shi zhongguo ren.” I am Chinese. “But I live in America.” She spoke in Mandarin.
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 322
  • #chinese-language
  • “Confucius says, ‘Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.’”
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 322
  • #confucius-says
  • Family. Family was what was important. She was being offered a second chance to get to know her Taiwanese family.
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 323
  • #family
  • She was going to learn Taiwanese and practice her Mandarin, spoken as well as written.
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 323
  • #asian-languages #culture #identity
  • But she’d never know if she didn’t try. And she did want to try.
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 324
  • #growth-mindset
  • She’d let the estrangement with her father dictate the path of her life for too long. It was time to break free and listen to her heart.
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 324
  • #identity
  • She turned and exited the park, blending into the crowd of Taiwanese people on the sidewalk.
  • Chapter 51 | Page: 325
  • #last-sentence