Twenty-five years ago, Sandra Cisneros published The House on Mango Street, a collection of vignettes chronicling her childhood growing up Mexican-American in Chicago. NPR did a great retrospective on what the book meant at the time and what it means today.
I had never read the book before so I was inspired by the NPR show to pick it up at the library. It was the kind of book I wished I’d read when I was younger; it resonated with me at 34 but I knew it would have been even more powerful if I had discovered it when I was about 12 years old. But if you’re older than 12, don’t let this discourage you. Read it – and recommend it – to others!
My family’s first experience with Chinese New Year was when my son attended pre-school in central New Jersey and one of his classmates distributed Barney-themed red envelopes filled with a crisp new dollar bill. I thought it was so cool – a cross between Valentine’s Day and Halloween – and I wanted to learn more.
One of the things I like best about the holiday is the communal spirit. Family members work together to prepare treats to help welcome in a prosperous new year. For example, fish, dumplings, mandarin oranges, and noodles are traditional staples in the meal.
To help teach my son about the holiday, we read My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz. The pictures are vivid and the story focuses on how one young girl prepares for the new year. The best part is getting to yell “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” at the end of the book.