Recently the 2011 Nebula Awards were announced by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which was only brought to my attention because a Doctor Who episode written by Neil Gaiman won the Bradbury Award. While sifting through some of the winners to get a feel for what constitutes some of the top Sci-Fi lit. out there, I decided to read some of the stories. One that I found particularly interesting was a short story titled “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction March/April 2011).
If you have the time, I would encourage you to check it out. It’s about a young boy named Jack whose mother, a Chinese woman who speaks little to no English, has a gift where she can blow life into her origami. Playing with pet tigers, sharks and other animals, as Jack grows up he starts to compare his home life with that of his peers and in doing so becomes ashamed of his mother’s background. Upset, embarrassed even, he goes so far as to demand that she speak only English in front of him. She acquiesces, but the damage has been done.
Although the ending may not come as much of a surprise to the reader, “The Paper Menagerie” reminds us to be more thoughtful of our behavior, more considerate of how we understand and interact with our loved ones.
Take the time to read it.