Title: Paper Daughter
Author: Jeanette Ingold
ISBN: 9780152055073
Pages: 215 pages
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c2010.

Why? Why would my father, who’d always said a person was only as good as his or her word, have lied about his parents and about how he’d been brought up?
I couldn’t come up with an explanation that would make his lie be all right. In fact, I couldn’t think of one that I could even believe.
He made up a story because he was ashamed of the truth? I couldn’t imagine it.” (19)

After Maggie’s father is killed in a hit and run, she feels compelled to continue her summer plans of working as a summer intern at the paper he was employed at while he was alive. While bouncing from one department to another, she finds herself assisting in an investigation of corrupt dealings between a deceased city councilman and a contractor running for his vacated seat. She’s abruptly yanked from the team when questions arise regarding whether or not her father was involved in the conspiracy. In examining her father’s past stories, Maggie realizes that she might not have known her father as well as she thought because he has some secrets of his own.

First off, with all the talk of white-washing covers, this has a distinctly Asian feel (although the girl on the cover looks a little young to be Maggie). Jeanette Ingold weaves two stories together, the first one being Maggie tracking down her father’s history, and the second being the slow reveal of that history to the readers. Readers can’t be sure if Maggie’s father was or wasn’t involved in the corruption scandal, but they are privy to what Maggie will eventually discover about her past. The reader is likewise horrified, along with Maggie, when she finds out the person behind the hidden past.

Maggie is a likeable character, with a tendency to spell out her feelings. She’s not completely composed (having a horrible, anxiety filled first day in which she spills coffee and is forced to cluelessly put together sports schedules) but she has maturity that is impressive and a street-smarts that is enviable. She tells fellow intern Jillian at one point

“I had a boyfriend where I lived before, but we broke up when I moved here. Which was okay. I’d outgrown him.” I felt myself flush with embarrassment. “Not that I’m so perfect,” I added. “But he didn’t know how to be serious.”(119)

Jillian is the counter-balance to Maggie, with a much more flamboyant personality and a talkative nature. Maggie is quiet and self-contained, keeping back from her mother the information she is finding out about her father until she feels it’s absolutely necessary to tell her. Her mother is completely removed from the search for her father’s history, and I think that’s relatable because Maggie is his flesh and blood and it affects her more than her mother. She has qualms about where this search might lead her, because although she is aware of being of Asian decent, she thinks of herself as American, and is afraid of what these revelations might do to her identity.

“That’s because that’s not how I think of myself. I have a heritage, sure–everyone has that, and I’m proud of mine. But it doesn’t make me foreign, and it doesn’t mean I have to take on the problems of a bunch of people I don’t understand.
[…] I don’t want to change who I am, even if sometimes I’m not sure who that is.
[…] I might find a family I don’t want. And then, even if I never see them again, I’ll know about them, and that will make me different.”
Jillian, the non-politically-correct devil’s advocate, then tells Maggie “You’d rather leave your dad to whatever stories people make up about him than take a chance on finding a truth you might not like.” (190)

It’s a poignant question of who makes you what you are, and what could change that self-identity. Maggie eventually answers it in a satisfying conclusion.

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