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Crew, Linda
New York : Delacorte, 1989
ISBN 0440210224
Sundara is a good Cambodian girl. She works hard at school and gets good grades. She respects her aunt and uncle, whom she lives with. She works after school on a farm with her family. She's successful. She drives a car and does the grocery shopping. The problems is, she feels guilty because she's starting to break away from her family's rules -- strict Cambodian rules about girls not dating boys, family arranged marriages, no luxuries and strong Khmer nationality. Jonathan, a school sports star, wants to get to know Sundara after her English assignment on one of life's problems reveals a hint of the trauma Sundara has lived through. Sundara is a refugee. She escaped without her parents or sisters. She was sent away with her aunt and uncle because her aunt had just had a baby and needed help. Now, Sundara feels guilty because the baby died. She has no knowledge of her family back home and she is living a very good life here. Even though she likes the young man that the family has arranged for her to marry, she finds herself drawn to Jonathan. With all this self-doubt, her aunt and uncle think she's bad. Jonathan's girlfriend thinks she's trying to break them up and all the time, Sundara tries to act as if nothing is wrong.

I think if more of us read book like CHILDREN OF THE RIVER, we would be less quick to label newcomers as weird, or stuck-up or even just bashful and boring. We might make the effort as Jonathan does, to be sensitive to their hesitancy to make connections with us, and still persist because everyone needs to have a friend their own age.
SUBJECTS:     Asian Americans -- Fiction
                        Khmers -- Fiction


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