Title: Prairie Lotus
Author: Linda Sue Park
Synopsis: Prairie Lotus is a book about a girl determined to fit in and realize her dreams: getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend. Hanna, a half-Asian girl in a small town in America’s heartland, lives in 1880. Hanna’s adjustment to her new surroundings, and the townspeople’s prejudice against Asians, is at the heart of the story.
Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!
I am not a big historical fiction fan, nor I am I a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie. What I am a fan of, is reimaginings or retellings of popular stories, which is what drew me to Linda Sue Park’s Prarie Lotus. This is the story of Hanna, a young Asian girl who dreams of getting an education during the 1880’s. Hanna must endure racism, prejudice, while also tackling what it means to have a dream that others who are privileged might not understand.
Hanna’s story is very powerful, and reading it, I felt so sad that she had to constantly deal with being labelled as different or strange. It’s heartbreaking to be a kid who constantly is being “othered” by those who choose not to educate themselves or even risk a conversation. In the Author’s Note, Linda Sue Park talks about how this novel is based off of actual experiences she faced growing up, and the frustrations of not seeing Asian representation in middle grade fiction that wasn’t racist in some way. She states that part of the reason Hanna has so much strength and courage to speak out about her situations, is because Park has stated she didn’t know how to do it when she was a kid.
I really loved this story, and Hanna’s strength really is admirable. She constantly defends herself and tries to educate others even though she shouldn’t have to. Hanna wants to show people her dressmaking skills, and she wants people to see in her little Dakota town how valuable she is as a person. Poor Hanna constantly has to justify her existence, which is so wrong! Since this is the story of new immigrants moving from their home in China where people were being murdered to America where their difference is seen as “othering.” Hanna and her family constantly show courage in this story, and they show that tenacity in a new place where they refuse to be mistreated.
Prairie Lotus is an intelligent, heartfelt story about finding strength and courage, but also dealing with issues such as racism head on. There are many difficult and powerful moments in this story, and it definitely has its place in being a very important story about loving yourself regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.