48 Hours Review: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet

I’ll never know what it is like to be biracial, but in Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, author Sherri L. Smith paints a portrait of a biracial family through the eyes of Ana Shen.  Living in Los Angeles, Ana is the salutatorian of her 8th grade class.  Graduation day is hectic enough when a water main breaks right as Ana begins her speech, but now that the graduation dance is cancelled, Ana will have to spend more time than expected with her African American and Chinese grandparents.

Previous events where both sides of the family gathered together were disastrous.  Ana is determined to make today perfect and have her grandparents, especially the grandmothers, make peace.

Primarily set in the Shen’s kitchen, Ana is in charge of making pot stickers, Grandma White will make gumbo, and Grandma Shen will make lion’s head.  Plus there’s a boy involved — Japanese student Jamie Tabata who is the class valedictorian.

The day is filled with tension and at the meal with Ana’s family, Jamie’s family, and two other families, things come to an explosive head.

The story is a winner because it offers an honest look at a family that combines two cultures who try to get along for the sake of the children.  The title describes the meal that the family is preparing to celebrate Ana’s graduation, but I think it describes her family as well.  No family is all good or all bad.  It takes a bit of the hot, the sour, the salty, and the sweet to really make a family.  Ana learns that lesson on graduation day.


2 Responses to “48 Hours Review: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet”

  1. Ms. Yingling Says:

    I liked this one. It was a nice family story about the tensions between generations and different sides of the family, as well as including the racial element. I liked the cover, too. Another good multicultural book!

  2. carlasarratt Says:

    I agree. Not many stories really tackle family tension that involves the racial element. They gloss over it or deal with it in a happily ever after way. I also liked the Japanese vs. Chinese sub conflict as well.

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