Homesick: My Own Story is the fictionalized account of a window of Jean Fritz’s childhood. It covers a couple of years of her life, though she explains in the preface that the events are drawn from her entire life (which partially explains the fictionalized part). Her father was a director for the YMCA in Hankow, China, so Jean’s earliest memories are of China, and they only returned to U.S. during a communist uprising of the 1920s. By reading it I gained a little bit of an understanding of what it would’ve been like to be a “foreign devil” in China at the time, as well as the inner workers of a young writer’s mind. A lot happens in this story, obviously, with all the political and societal upheaval. However, despite all the confusion of the time, mostly we have a story about a girl, an only child, who longs to have a place to call home. She looks at Washington, P.A. (which is how they always refer to PA), her parents’ home and where her paternal grandparents live, as nearly heaven on earth. She hates the British school she attends in China and wants nothing more than to be truly American. She’s somewhat oblivious to the lives of her parents, being pretty absorbed in her own little world. (I confess that this is the part that is the most inexplicable to me. I think I’ve always been aware of the adult world!) One part in the story made me laugh out loud, to the point that my girls questioned why I was laughing and I had to read the passage to them. (It’s a part at the end when Jean and her parents have returned from China and Jean has gone to an American school for the first time. She’s puzzled and frustrated by her persnickety teacher’s insistence that she learn the Palmer Method of handwriting as an eighth grader. It’s hilarious!) Louise was immediately captivated and confiscated the book as soon as I finished it. She read it in less than twenty-four hours. If that’s not a Highly Recommended, I don’t know what is. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1982)
I read this book for this month’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge.