This Place is Still Beautiful by XiXi Tian

This Place is Still Beautiful is a deeply moving novel about racism, family, and sisterhood. 

This Place is Still Beautiful by XiXi Tian

This Place is Still Beautiful is a Young Adult novel by debut author XiXi Tian. Set in a small town nestled deep in Ohio, the novel follows biracial sisters, seventeen-year-old Annalie and nineteen-year-old Margaret. Despite their near identical upbringings, Annalie and Margaret are worlds apart, able to agree on little to nothing. Where Annalie is sweet and quiet, Margaret is ambitious and loud with a keen awareness of social justice issues. When presented with the opportunity, Margaret quickly fled their hometown to New York, but the prospect of leaving home to Annalie is unfathomable. That is until she comes home one day to find a racial slur spray painted in red across their garage. 

This Place is Still Beautiful is a poignant and impactful read. The narrative is told through alternating points of view between Annalie and Margaret. This mode of storytelling utilised by Tian is highly effective in highlighting the dichotomy between the two sisters and how they both deal differently with the hate crime committed against their family. Where Margaret has traditional Chinese facial features, Annalie can get away with passing as white — it is through their dual narratives that we see how this has greatly affected their life experiences, despite them having the same upbringing. This sense of disparity, and their differing experiences of prejudice, also add to their disjointed relationship. Whilst Margaret is determined to seek justice for their family, Annalie wishes to brush the whole issue under the rug. In this way, Tian opens up a highly interesting dialogue concerning what it means to be biracial versus what it means to look biracial. 

In addition, the novel is well written with excellent world-building. As the sisters walk through their hometown, the places they see are not just places but memories. For example, the pastry shop that is renowned for its grumpy owner is not just a bakery but a place Annalie has frequented with her best friend Violet for years. This connection between place and memory builds a great sense of small-town community, making the hate crime against the sisters even more shocking. Moreover, the characters are well developed throughout the novel. It was beautiful to see Margaret eventually repair her relationship with her mother and sister and how this strengthened their family unit. 

Overall, This Place is Still Beautiful is a thoughtful novel that marks a wonderful entrance for XiXi Tian into Young Adult fiction. 


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