Book Highlight: Tale of Two Fadans • 兩個花旦

For many of us, we consider ourselves a visible minority here in English-speaking countries.

In this book, the tables are turned, and we get a glimpse into the lives of some of ethnic minorities of Hong Kong, and the struggles they face because they don't look/speak Chinese 🥺

The book features two little girls, Wa Wa and Hanna, whose parents registered them into traditional Cantonese Opera (粵劇) classes.

They both dread it for different reasons: Wa Wa because she is painfully shy and has stage fright; while Hanna, whose mother tongue isn't Chinese, finds the Chinese lyrics and script suuuuper daunting to learn.

Through their shared fears though, they quickly became friends. And together, they learn to master their roles and become 花旦s 💕

First off, I love love loooove all the Cantonese and Hong Kong specific details. And not just any Cantonese detail, I love that it exposes young readers to the dying art of traditional Cantonese Opera.

btw: the words 花旦 (faa1 daan2) in the title, is what they call the female leads in traditional Cantonese Operas. It is also used in modern contexts by local production companies, like TVB, to describe their A-list female actresses.

And the illustrations — oh the illustrations... 😍 (!!) There are so many little details to discover, many of which you will recognize if you grew up in Hong Kong: from the neatly stacked checkered Garden bread loaves, to the folding table with patterned top, or the little blue staedler eraser all the kids had in their pencil cases.

I love how even the parody lyrics 「落街冇錢買麵包~~~」made an appearance (#iykyk 😂 ... I didn't realize this line lived in my brain all these years, and automatically sang this in my head as soon as I read them)

Not only that, the story also exposes us to things that aren't frequently talked about: the hardships minorities face in Hong Kong, many of which live in poverty, and face prejudice and racism.

These social issues aren't often discussed in Chinese books, and I appreciate how the author (& everything by this publisher) intentionally covers these, weaving them into stories in child-friendly ways ♥️

Find the book here: Tale of Two Fadans • 兩個花旦

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