A music teacher friend of mine called a few weeks back with a problem. His school was doing a read every day initiative and teachers had to spend ten minutes reading the first 10-20 pages of any novel.
“I read music,” he said. “Not literature. Can you recommend any stories with a theater theme? I have a class of sixth graders at the time when we have to read.”
A long breath came out next assuring me this “reading out loud” task was the last thing he wanted to do. I pushed forth and recommended:
- Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier
- Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown
I briefly told him about each book and without hesitation he went for DREAM, ANNIE, DREAM—my review for today.
Aoi Inoue (AKA Annie since few ever pronounce her name correctly) wants to be successful at something. Basketball for sure, but also acting and maybe even writing a script. The setting is Topeka, Kansas in 1987 and Annie is the only Asian kid in her neighborhood. She lives with her parents and a younger brother. Dad is a university math professor (Annie hates math) and Mom is worried that basketball and theater are dead-end aspirations for an Asian-American.
Annie’s first dream comes true when gets a small part in a local theater’s production of Annie at a local theater. She loves the experience and when 7th grade begins she makes the basketball squad (even though she is the shortest on the team) and gets another small part in The King and I. Along the way she comes to realize the biases and racism she and her family endure every day. In typical middle school ways there are broken friendships, first crushes, and an over-the-top, strict teacher with a few unnecessary interpretations of her own.
The first person narration by Annie is spot on. This is an important story of reflection as to what it was like being an Asian-American in the 80s and whether attitudes and opportunities have improved or not in the present day. They have, but there’s still a long way to go. Dream, Annie, Dream will open up discussion and provide an enjoyable reading experience at the same time.
As for the music teacher, he said his reading went quite well and wouldn’t mind doing it again!
BOOK BIRTHDAY: Feb. 8, 2022 PAGE COUNT: 352
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: Dream. Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown.
- The idea that way you look gets you preferential treatment in certain situations is wonderfully brought out when some think Annie is getting the parts not because of any talent. You can also make comparisons today with entertainment and sports headlines highlighting the imbalances when top level positions are often given to white candidates.
- Annie finds herself struggling with who she is, but by the end you can tell her support system has pushed her to make important realizations about herself and the future.
- The family personalities are all very different. The author did a splendid job with each character arc, even with little brother, Tak.
- Being a certain way based on your race is a common misconception still seen in the world today. I’m glad to see it brought forth here.
- The Author’s Note in the back pages tells a impactful story in it’s own right. You might even read this first as it sets the stage for what is to come in the main story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Waka is a Stanford graduate with a B.A. in International Relations and a Master’s in Secondary Education. While I Was Away (Quill Tree/HarperCollins 2021) is her debut novel.
Dream, Annie, Dream (Quill Tree/HarperCollins 2022) is her first work of historical fiction.
(For more about Waka T. Brown be sure to visit her author website)
Please leave a comment below as I always enjoy reading them
This sounds like an excellent book. Glad you were able to recommend it to a music teacher!
A great recommendation for this teacher. Of course, my rural library didn’t have it. Sigh.
I don’t know why my comment didn’t get to you. Loved your review and I have some music books to recommend.
I remember that period in time. I love reading stories about Asian American kids as we had adopted a 13-year-old boy from India — the only Asian Indian in his school. It was a tough time, so I’ll be anxious to read this book. Attitudes have changed, but there is room for a lot more growth.
I loved Brown’s book, While I Was Away. From what you have said in your review, I think I will like this one as well. I’m putting it on my list. Thanks, Greg!
Wow! This book sounds like one I must read. My daughter is adopted from China, and we moved when she started school so she wouldn’t be the only Asian in her school. I’m glad I did. But she’s an adult now and has experienced racism due to COVID and at her job where she’s only one of two minorities. I just put the book on my wishlist at the library so I can read it as soon as I get my TBR list down a bit. Thanks, Greg!
I love books that involve theatre. I will have to check this one out!
I love books that theatre too! It also sounds a very interesting setting, to see how different things were then versus now, Thanks for the review!