Rgz SALON member Lyn Miller-Lachmann has been the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review; the author of the award-winning multicultural bibliography Our Family, Our Friends, Our World; the editor of Once Upon a Cuento, a collection of short stories by Latino authors; and the author of Gringolandia, a young adult novel about a refugee family living with the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Her most recent novel, Rogue--a spring/summer Junior Library Guild selection for middle school--is out this month!
We're honored to have Lyn here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, she discusses The Language Inside by Holly Thompson:
"Emma Karas is a 'third culture kid.' Her parents grew up in the United States, but she calls Japan home even though she is not ethnically Japanese. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and decides to return to the U.S. for treatment, Emma is uprooted from her Japanese friends and her efforts to help survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and dropped into a world that she doesn’t understand. The stress causes her to suffer severe and frightening migraines. To take her mind off her mother’s health, her parents’ separation due to work, and her loneliness, she volunteers at a nursing home near her grandmother’s house in Massachusetts. There, she meets Samnang, a volunteer of Cambodian heritage with a troubled past, and Zena, a middle-aged poet with 'locked-in' syndrome. As she becomes comfortable in her new surroundings, she feels guilty that she is not helping her friends in Japan as they rebuild from the tsunami. Ultimately, this thoughtful, good-hearted teenager finds herself torn and having to make choices that weigh her own needs and the needs of others.
"Thompson is a poet and novelist from the U.S. who lives in Japan, Her second novel in verse is a strong follow-up to the acclaimed Orchards, which mostly takes place in her adopted home. The elegant and heartfelt poetry in The Language Inside allows the reader to explore Emma’s internal transformation as she navigates different cultures and the people in her life. Emma writes, 'it’s not just losing / Japanese words / and phrases / it’s as if I’ve lost / half of myself here / but no one knows / because I’m a white girl' There is very little dialogue, but through Emma’s eyes we see other characters clearly and Emma’s changing relationships with them. The most original aspect of this powerful and compelling story is Emma’s interaction with Zena via poetry, as we see the growing friendship between two people who, in distinct ways, understand that 'lonely is when the language outside / isn’t the language inside.'"