Chinglish: An Almost Entirely True Story by Sue Cheung
Jo Kwan is a teenager growing up in 1980s Coventry with her annoying little sister, too-cool older brother, a series of very unlucky pets and utterly bonkers parents. But unlike the other kids at her new school or her posh cousins, Jo lives above her parents’ Chinese takeaway. And things can be tough – whether it’s unruly customers or the snotty popular girls who bully Jo for being different. Even when she does find a BFF who actually likes Jo for herself, she still has to contend with her erratic dad’s behaviour. All Jo dreams of is breaking free and forging a career as an artist.
Told in diary entries and doodles, Jo’s brilliantly funny observations about life, family and char siu make for a searingly honest portrayal of life on the other side of the takeaway counter.
I can’t remember exactly how I heard of this book but it had been on my radar for a few months and I had preordered it. For some reason I didn’t clock in that it had doodles in it *facepalm* so that was a wonderful surprise (and explains the competition of doodling yourself). So this copy came from a competition (as said before) during YALC and I kept trying daily to win it because I had to.
The book is very very funny, and extremely honest. I was giggling at the antics of Jo’s family and the doodles also help make this even better (I found them really cute and they felt like the right type of doodles Jo would do, which is an odd comment but sometimes the doodles are too young or too mature and you struggle to believe the “narrator” made them, but in this book it felt very much like they were hers).
I just have to mention that this book requires a couple of trigger warnings (maybe more than a couple but I can’t remember it all). There is child abuse (non sexual) peppered throughout the story, minors smoking, and abuse/violence in general. It surprised me because I wasn’t sure what to expect but I didn’t feel like I needed the warnings (which I usually do want in other books). Maybe because of the way it was narrated that it didn’t feel like a punch in the gut to move the plot, but more as the title says “an almost entirely true story” and when those happen, it is easier in a way to see where it is going. Anyway, in case you needed them, there you go.
Oh, and also, you may become hungry. I kept wanting Chinese food when they talked about some of it (there’s a lot of talk about chicken’s feet, which reminded me of a shildren’s song in Mexico that talks about eating the beak and the tail of the chicken so yeah, not that far off).
I would recommend it as a quick read, with fun doodles, hope and a window into life in a Chinese takeaway in the 80s (not that this is all takeaways!). I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t want to put it down!