June 10, 2022

The Silence That Binds Us

By Joanna Ho
Review by
The first YA novel by bestselling children’s author Joanna Ho is a moving portrait of a family who find their way through tragedy to hopefulness and healing.
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Everything changed the night Danny Chen died. The Silence That Binds Us follows Danny’s parents and sister, May, in the aftermath of Danny’s death by suicide.

May and Danny’s Taiwanese American parents raised their children to be xiàoshùn: “obedient, respectful, caring, and every other desirable quality rolled into one intimidating word.” In the wake of their loss, May and her family struggle to move forward together. When a prominent, wealthy member of their suburban Bay Area community publicly claims that Asian American parents “push their kids so hard” and blames the Chens for Danny’s death, May must make an impossible choice. Should she keep her head down and stay silent, or should she speak up and tell her story, even if it means putting everything on the line?

The Silence That Binds Us depicts anti-Asian racism with raw, powerful honesty. It also explores complex webs of prejudice among and against the Bay Area’s ethnic communities, touching on subjects such as redlining and the myth of the model minority. Joanna Ho (Eyes That Kiss in the Corners) captures the emotions of characters experiencing racism for the first time as well as those who have never known a life without its toxic presence.

Bestselling picture book author Ho’s first YA novel is a deeply felt portrayal of a family shattered by tragedy and a thoughtful depiction of how injustice plays people against one another—and themselves—in order to perpetuate itself. In the end, The Silence That Binds Us finds its way through heartbreak to hard-won hopefulness and healing. As May realizes, “Every time we speak out, it is an act of love. Love is how we overcome fear.”

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