Front Desk by Kelly Yang is a close to firsthand account (based on the author’s note) of the lives of Chinese immigrants doing their best to provide for family in the face of adversity.
Mia’s parents moved from China a couple years before the story begins, and ever since have moved and changed jobs several times. The book centers on their time running a motel in California. They work around the clock every day of the week. The motel owner is an unpleasant, demanding man who has them working for nearly nothing, and his son is in Mia’s class. This in itself creates some unique conflict.
Mia is a pretty amazing kid. She works the front desk so that her parents can clean and manage the rest of the motel. She befriends their permanent residents while managing yet another new school. She dreams of getting her family off the poor roller coaster, an analogy shared by her friend Lupe, and decides to enter a writing competition to win their own motel. In order to do this, she needs to face insecurities her mom has instilled in her about writing in English. Mia learns that working on her writing is worthwhile; she has a powerful voice.
Mia is a witness to discrimination, dishonest and at times violent customers, poverty and her own struggles with trying to fit in. There is no denying that her character is destined for greatness based on her strength through all of life’s obstacles. Readers will find out how she helps her family and others.
This is an inspiring and important story.