A young biracial woman grapples with identity and belonging while nannying for a wealthy family in New York City.
Good to know
Why I love it
Crystal Hana Kim
Author, If You Leave Me
From the very first page of Kyle Lucia Wu’s Win Me Something, I felt an aching tenderness for the main character. Meet Willa Chen—a biracial Chinese American girl who feels adrift, as if the world doesn’t quite have a place for someone like her. “I had parents. I had siblings. I had homes, multiple or zero, depending on how you looked at it. I wasn’t unloved, not uncared for, exactly. It was cloudier than that, ink spreading in water as I tried to claim the words,” she says. All of us have felt this way at some point in our lives, right? As if we don’t belong, not really.
Win Me Something begins in 2013, when 24-year-old Willa finds a job as a nanny for a white, wealthy family in New York City. As she takes care of the precious Bijou, who is coddled with dance lessons and cooking classes and constant attention, Willa can’t help but think of her own fragmented childhood. With parents who remarried and had children with their new partners, Willa flitted between her mother and father’s home, constantly an outsider. How lonely she was, longing to be seen. Now, as a nanny, she wonders how much has changed. As Willa becomes closer with the family she works for, she thinks that maybe, just maybe, she’s finally found a new home. But do they feel the same way? This is a beautiful, devastating coming-of-age story. I hope you love it—and Willa—as much as I did.
Willa Chen has never quite fit in. Growing up as a biracial Chinese American girl in New Jersey, Willa felt both hypervisible and unseen, too Asian to fit in at her mostly white school, and too white to speak to the few Asian kids around. After her parents’ early divorce, they both remarried and started new families, and Willa grew up feeling outside of their new lives, too.
For years, Willa does her best to stifle her feelings of loneliness, drifting through high school and then college as she tries to quiet the unease inside her. But when she begins working for the Adriens—a wealthy white family in Tribeca—as a nanny for their daughter, Bijou, Willa is confronted with all of the things she never had. As she draws closer to the family and eventually moves in with them, Willa finds herself questioning who she is, and revisiting a childhood where she never felt fully at home. Self-examining and fraught with the emotions of a family who fails and loves in equal measure, Win Me Something is a nuanced coming-of-age debut about the irreparable fissures between people, and a young woman who asks what it really means to belong, and how she might begin to define her own life.