Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

Book rating: 04 Hardback

By (author) Cara Chow

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  • Publisher: Egmontusa
  • Format: Hardback | 309 pages
  • Dimensions: 145mm x 211mm x 30mm | 417g
  • Publication date: 28 December 2010
  • ISBN 10: 1606841262
  • ISBN 13: 9781606841266
  • Sales rank: 754,810

Product description

Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.

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Author information

Cara Chow was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the Richmond district of San Francisco, where Bitter Melon is set.  She attended an all girls' Catholic high school, competed in speech, and had an encouraging speech coach, which served in part as the inspiration for her novel.  She was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow in 2001. In addition to writing, Cara also teaches Pilates. She currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and son. Bitter Melon is her first novel.

Customer reviews

By TeensReadToo 05 Aug 2011 4

As I turned the last page of BITTER MELON, I still couldn't decide if I should celebrate for Frances or feel sorry for her mother.... And thus is the crux of the story behind BITTER MELON.

We meet Frances, a senior at a private girl's school with the goal to gain entrance to Berkeley. As with most Asian American families in the San Francisco, California, area, Berkeley is the holy grail of colleges. Only the most worthy will gain entrance. And Frances has been groomed from an early age by her mother to excel and want nothing else but Berkeley - and ultimately a degree in medicine.

A scheduling snafu at school lands Frances in speech class instead of calculus. She tells herself she will fix her schedule before the deadline, but before she knows it, the deadline has passed and she finds she not only excels in class, but she likes it. And her teacher, Ms. Taylor, inspires her and is nothing like any other teacher she's ever had.

Of course, speech does not fit in Frances' mother's plans. But with the coaxing of Ms. Taylor and the guidance counselor from school, her mother comes around to the idea of speech being an "extra-curricular" on Frances' college applications. But as with everything else, Frances has to come in first or it's not worth her time.

BITTER MELON encompasses Frances' senior year. The reader gets to know the hardships that Frances has to endure at the hands of her mother (sometimes literally.) Frances isn't allowed any after school activities and boys are a no no. She meets Derek at an SAT prep class that her mother constantly bemoans the cost of, even though Frances did not ask to attend. As Derek shows interest in Frances, her mother becomes more and more hostile in her actions and words.

I hate to think that Frances' life as portrayed in BITTER MELON is a common occurrence. The expectations placed on Frances were unreal and at times cruel. Frances did the only thing such confinement would be expected to lead to - she rebels. Though her rebellion is not outright, the subtle tugging on her strings is enough to make France realize that she wanted nothing more than her own dreams. Nothing she would ever accomplish would satisfy her mother, and gaining her confidence as the year passes increases her need to be free.