Book lover. Stephen King Fanatic. Will try anything once. General Lover of Fiction. Reviewer Everywhere. All views my own. Mostly.
Review by Melissa Barnsley for Liz Loves Books.
Source: Publisher Review Copy
Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venomous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend is Jay - a mixed raced Jamaican boy with a passion for classical music.
The Life of a Banana is a deeply moving, funny and fascinating insight into the life of a British-Chinese teenager, Xing Li.
Having lived in China for a short while myself I found this book particularly interesting; during my time in China I found that a lot of Chinese nationals yearn to start a new life in Britain or America, and many of them see the freedom of our countries as preferable to the often oppressive Chinese traditions and laws. However, I’ve never looked at it from the other side – do Chinese people who move to, or are born in Britain really experience this freedom and happiness? It really pains me to say this, because I consider myself a very open minded and accepting person, but until I read this book I had never considered the implications of coming from an ethnic minority but not feeling like a fully formed member of that culture.
Of course, I realise how difficult it is for foreigners living in England – unfortunately racism still runs rife throughout the country, especially around the inner city areas which provide the setting of this excellent novel. I have never really thought about the fact that not all people who look Chinese can necessarily speak Chinese – I knew it was a fact, but had never thought about how it might feel to be one of those people. I’ve always understood that somebody who looks different to me can still be just as British as I am (I’m a painfully typical blonde-haired blue-eyed white girl) yet I can’t imagine how it must feel to be rejected by your own nationality and have nowhere to turn.
‘The Life of a Banana’ challenges preconceptions, breaks down barriers and tackles the widespread racism against British-Chinese head on. The comic and quirky writing style of the teenage protagonist provides a beautiful contrast to the dark, difficult situations that she finds herself in, and all the characters are written with such depth you will find that you care for each and every one.
This is a stunning debut novel, which will no doubt resonate with people in a similar situation to Xing Li, and open the eyes of those who are not.