Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Mei’s refusal to stick herself with needles makes her the crazy one in her traditional Taiwanese family. She tries to be the obedient daughter, but her mother’s comments about Mei’s expiring ovaries and unladlylike eating habits are harder to stomach than fermented tofu. Good thing her parents don’t understand sarcasm.

Despite her mumbled comebacks, Mei’s life is on her parents’ predetermined track: she’s a senior at MIT, her medical school applications are in (even though she’s germophobic), and she no longer speaks to her brother, who her parents disowned for dating a reproductively-challenged woman. Ahem, ex-brother.

Thanks to a mysterious rash, Mei meets Dr. Tina Chang—the awkward, perpetually hunched, future version of herself. Tina’s unhappiness in her career and willingness to shun her homosexual brother “for the ancestors” make Mei question who she is.

The more she finds herself, the further she moves from her parents’ traditions. Rejecting all the sons of her mom’s friends, she pursues her crush even though he’s not a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. When she musters the courage to tell her parents she’s not sure about medical school, they disown her, obviously—the only thing to do with a rogue child.

Mei faces a decision: sacrifice a piece of herself to repair her relationship with her parents or live the life she wants—but without family.

AMERICAN PANDA is MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING meets Amy Tan. AMERICAN PANDA is a 60,000 word, NA multicultural contemporary novel based on my experiences as a second-generation Taiwanese-American.


The Book Doctors: I love the way this pitch starts. Because our heroine isn’t sticking herself with needles, she’s the crazy one. Immediately we see the sense of humor of the author shining through. We see that this story is going to be about a clash of cultures. Old world versus new millennium. And at a time when publishers are desperately seeking diverse books, the subject matter is right on time. I also like how this pitch shows us all these things without telling us. Expiring ovaries, fermented tofu. Parents who don’t even understand her sarcasm. It’s all very specific and real. God and the devil are both in the details. Through the specific we find the universal. And there are so many funny little asides in this pitch, like the fact that she’s going to medical school and she’s germophobic. And I really like the fact that she sees herself, or rather an older version of herself, when she meets Dr. Tina Chang. And I adore the comparable titles. Plus the title itself, American Panda, is so good. I would like there to be a little more understanding of what it means for this character to be shunned by her family. What are the consequences if they disown her? Culturally I know this means a different thing for a Taiwanese family than it does for an Episcopalian family. My family shunned me, and it was shocking how little I missed talking to them. It was a little sad, but I just went on with my life. I want you to let us know specifically how this is going to bring misery down upon her. It also might be fun to list the names of all the people, or three of the people, that her mom sets her up with that she rejects. And maybe a little bit about her crush. But all in all, an absolutely lovely pitch.