BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Money Boy by Paul Yee

Money Boy‘Gritty’ is the first word that comes to mind after finishing this slim young adult novel about a teenage Chinese immigrant’s struggles with his conservative father over his sexuality.

Ray Liu is new to the West. He’s left behind half his family in China, including his less-than-reliable mother, and his most beloved grandfather. He doesn’t speak English well and seems to be having a harder time adjusting to life in Toronto than his fellow immigrant friends. He’s not like his stepbrother, a dutiful son and high-achieving student who makes their parents so proud. Truth be told, Ray is most comfortable alone in his room playing computer games with friends he can’t see, much less have to talk to.

Then his father – a former army/police officer in China – discovers Ray’s secret, and proceeds to calmly throw Ray out of the house. Ray’s odyssey takes him through alleyways and shelters, facing violence and unexpected friendship. When he loses everything of value, he must decide if he’ll join the other ‘money boys’ on the streets to survive …

Third-generation Chinese Canadian Paul Yee, a historian by training whose Tales from Gold Mountain told the stories of early North American Chinese pioneers, explores the contemporary lives of newer immigrants. Unlike past generations whose homeland connections were virtually severed by thousands of distant miles, today’s immigrants have easy access via modern technology. Ray’s longing to go home to China, for example,  is temporarily quelled, albeit discouraged, by phone calls to his errant mother. The opportunity to go home, if only to visit, is very much a reality, as long as airfare can be found.

And yet for young Ray, living in a country that recognizes gay marriage (!) – in spite of his disapproving parents – is a vastly different alternative to returning to a homeland where homosexuality is barely acknowledged to even exist. For now, he can’t go back to China, he won’t go back to his judgmental father, but his options are quickly disappearing …

No rose-colored glasses mitigate Ray’s gritty experience on the streets. No sugar-coating, no magic wand, no avenging angel to save Ray from himself … life, indeed, is tough for the new immigrant. His journey proves eye-opening, hair-raising, and downright heartbreaking. Parents and young adults both – especially those who might be knocking heads more often than not – would do well to read this together. Sooner rather than later …

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2011


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