Asian Estrangement: YA Novel Money Boy and Music Video Run Away Train
If Money Boy by Paul Yee were a song, it would be Run Away Train by Alexander Jung.
And vice versa.
Rapper Alexander Jung’s Run Away Train track made me think immediately of Paul Yee’s critically acclaimed and award winning young adult novel, Money Boy. If a book could have it’s own sound track, it would be Run Away Train. It’s not just teen angst but the real deal, at least if you play it while reading the book, about being thrown out of your house when you are a teen for being gay. And then trying to make it on the streets as a prostitute. Gritty reality. But at least it has an anthem.
If Money Boy gets made into a movie, this is my choice for the soundtrack!
Money Boy by Paul Yee
Ray Liu knows he should be happy. He lives in a big suburban house with all the latest electronic gadgets, and even finds plenty of time to indulge in his love of gaming. He needs the escape. It’s tough getting grades that will please his army veteran father, when speaking English is still a struggle. And he can’t quite connect with his gang at high school — immigrants like himself but who seem to have adjusted to North American life more easily. Then comes his father accesses Ray’s internet account, and discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites. Before Ray knows what has hit him, his belongings have been thrown on the front lawn, and he has been kicked out. Angry, defiant, Ray heads to downtown Toronto. In short order he is robbed, beaten up and seduced, and he learns the hard realities of life on the street. Could he really sell himself for sex? Lots of people use their bodies to make money — athletes, actors, models, pop singers. If no one gets hurt, why should anyone care?
I found this gritty young adult novel riveting to read and sadly realistic. I can picture an Asian American dad freaking out in the same way to discover his child’s homosexuality and react by throwing him out of the house and onto the streets. It’s an important book that explores the fringes of Asian American life that isn’t front and center as a “Model Minority.” Tiger parenting is not just demanding top grades from your kids, but also that they fit a particular acceptable mold. And when the child can’t or won’t comply, the consequences are dire.
Paul Yee’s excellent young adult novel is recommended for ages 14 and up. To view it more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
• A Stonewall Honor Book, 2012
• “Yee’s sophisticated juxtaposition of immigrant narratives with questions of sexual identity is compelling and poignant.” — School Library Journal
• “Yee’s latest offers insight into the city’s immigrant-Chinese and gay communities…sure to invite both thought and discussion.” — Booklist
• “Paul Yee’s novel is a valuable intervention into the representation of gay and lesbian experience in the young adult genre.” — CM Magazine