“Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota…until now. Her mom’s plan is to stay for just a couple of weeks, while Maizy’s grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in last Chance (where she and her family are the only Asian Americans) and at the Golden Palace – a restaurant that’s been in the family for generations – she makes some discoveries. For instance: You can tell a lot about someone by the way they order food. And: People can surprise you. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in disappointing ways. And: The Golden Palace has secrets.
But the more Maizy learns, the more questions she has. Like, why are her mom and her grandmother always fighting? And who are the people in the pictures on the office wall? When she discovers that a family treasure has gone missing – and someone has left a racist note – Maizy decides it’s time to find the answers.”
-Synopsis from inside front cover
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance is a delightful read by one of my favorite children’s authors, Lisa Yee. This story features lovable characters, open discussions of racism and the history of Chinese Americans and immigration to the United States, family secrets, and an inspiring young character determined to right wrongs.
I loved that Maizy’s family history was broken up into parts interspersed between chapters. It really added to the suspense of the story as Maizy worked to connect the dots between her family history and the parallels to what they faced in the present. Of course, it was hard to read about the amount of racism Maizy had to deal with today. It is so disappointing that in many ways very little has changed. I am happy to see this book celebrating immigrants since immigrants are essentially who built this country, quite literally.
There was a lot about Chinese immigration that I knew, and a lot that I learned. For example, after the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, many birth records were destroyed. This paved the way for immigrants to come to the United States on the premise that they were relatives of people already living here, effectively becoming what were known as “paper sons.”
I really enjoyed this book and found the ending to be quite emotional. I especially enjoyed the afterward in which Lisa Yee shares stories about her own family’s immigration from China, as well as resources that she used while writing the book.