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Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet

by Sherri L. Smith

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Being of black and Chinese heritage, Ana feels she has to be all things to all people. But as her Chinese father points out, she's a combination of the best both cultures offer in much the same way a good Chinese dish combines different flavors (hence the title) and comes out perfect and delicious. The book takes place over middle school graduation day and the narrative pace can be somewhat frenzied. But readers who have been thoroughly embarrassed on a regular basis by their own families will identify with Ana's mortifications. The particularly humorous scenes depict the prickly interactions of the two grandmothers as they try to one-up each other with increasingly extravagant graduation gifts for their beloved granddaughter. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Ana is graduating from eighth grade. Ana’s mother is African-American and his father is Chines-American. Ana’s family and grandparents come to her graduation ceremony. Meanwhile, a water pipe breaks and the salon and dance floor flooded. She wanted to take the dancing opportunity to talk to Jamie, her crush classmate, but the pip break ruined everything. However, she then thought to invite Jamie to the family dinner. Her grandparents are not happy with this as they do not get along with cross cultural communication. The grandmothers usually try to race with each other with gifts and stories. Now, they try to do the same to prepare the perfect dishes for Ana's graduation dinner with different foods. Finally, their different cultures and tastes mix together and complement each other and satisfy Ana.
This book is good for middle school students, growing up multi-cultural and bi-racial, which encourages the respect and appreciation of different cultures. It is a story that highlights a multi-cultural family and their struggles and issues and everyone can relate to that. However, it could have developed the characters better. ( )
  Elham.mkh | Dec 4, 2012 |
Personal Response:
An insightful journey into the life of a biracial teenage girl who is trying to fit in and find an identity for herself when family and friends all seem to have different expectations.

Curricular or Programming Connections:
Excellent curriculum support for understanding the effects of prejudice and racism and for understanding what it is to be bi- or multi-racial.
  JJReadings | Aug 1, 2010 |
When a pipe bursts during Ana Shen's middle school graduation, flooding the field and cutting the ceremony short, it doesn't seem like things could get any worse. Then comes the announcement that the gym is flooded, too, and the graduation dance is cancelled. The dance was going to be Ana's big chance to tell Jamie Tabata she likes him before they go their separate ways for high school, but when her best friend Chelsea ends up inviting Jamie and his family over to Ana's for a graduation dinner, it looks like there might be hope after all. Assuming Ana can keep her grandmothers' rivalry from ruining everything.

I'd seen several reviews for this on and wasn't really that interested, but after reading and loving Flygirl, I decided to give some of Smith's other books a try. This...is definitely no Flygirl. It's cute enough, and it's nice to see a biracial main character (or any character!) who isn't half white, but I wasn't wowed or anything.

I really think the book could have used a lot more editing. Most of it is fine, but it starts to fall apart at the ending, which seems really rushed, plus has a couple of chapters that don't really fit. At one point her grandfather starts telling a story and instead of just making it quick or summarising, we actually get a random flashback chapter in his POV about the event he's relating. We also get a few paragraphs in one of the grandmothers' POV towards the end, in a story that has otherwise been very tight third person with only one POV. It just seemed sloppy.

Also I was really excited about the story being set in LA at first, but it ended up being more frustrating than anything because the author gave all sorts of conflicting details. The kids have gone to school together since kindergarten, yet for some reason they all go to an elementary school in a totally different zone than where they live. (One person going to a far away public school might have some excuse, but not a whole class.) Then the high school mentioned is not the high school that middle school feeds into. Neither is it the high school she would actually be going to for where she's supposed to live. Which being less than a mile from the beach would be Santa Monica and she'd go to SaMoHi, not Uni (also everyone keeps saying University High and I'm sorry but I have never heard anyone call it that; it's Uni). Plus the author gives a freeway exit that they're supposed to live near, which is not less than a mile from the beach, either.

I really don't know what she was thinking. The jacket flap says she lives in LA, so it's not just that she didn't know what she was talking about. It's like she wanted to use real names of stuff, but didn't want to be specific, so she ended up taking bits from all over. If you don't want to be specific, then either be vague or make up names of school and stuff. But if you're going to be specific then you have to get your facts right!

Of course most of the people reading aren't going to know or care, but it really took a lot of fun out of it for me. ( )
  kyuuketsukirui | Nov 20, 2009 |
The plot was good -- all food-centered plots are good -- but the voice was a little off. The little bits of truth (they were there!) were just plain painful, with not too much redemption afterwards. It was technically a "happy ending" but it was not a satisfying one. ( )
  cnesbitt | Nov 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385734174, Hardcover)

Ana Shen has what her social studies teacher calls a “marvelously biracial, multicultural family” but what Ana simply calls a Chinese American father and an African American mother. And on eighth-grade graduation day, that’s a recipe for disaster. Both sets of grandparents are in town to celebrate, and Ana’s best friend has convinced her to invite Jamie Tabata–the cutest boy in school–for a home-cooked meal. Now Ana and her family have four hours to prepare their favorite dishes for dinner, and Grandma White and Nai Nai can’t agree on anything. Ana is tired of feeling caught between her grandparents and wishes she knew whose side she was supposed to be on. But when they all sit down for their hot, sour, salty, and sweet meal, Ana comes to understand how each of these different flavors, like family, fit perfectly together.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Disaster strikes when Ana Shen is about to deliver the salutatorian speech at her junior high school graduation, but an even greater crisis looms when her best friend invites a crowd to Ana's house for dinner, and Ana's multicultural grandparents must find a way to share a kitchen.… (more)

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