Foreword and gratitude
Friends, I have just finished reading Hungry Hearts and — oh my goodness. My stomach may be hungry but my heart is full and my soul is nourished.
Food is such an important part of my life. Food isn’t just fuel to me (and I know there’s a degree of privilege for me to be able to say that). Food is intimately tied to how I connect with my heritage, my family, and the traditions that I hold close to me.
When I heard that this book was going to be released, I was ecstatic and absolutely beside myself with joy. It’s not often that I get to read a book that centers food, so when I heard that Hungry Hearts, edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline T. Richmond, was going to have not one but thirteen stories about food? And that the stories would not just be about food, but would also be how food intertwines with love, identity, and culture? I felt like this book was made for me.
So friends, welcome to the last stop of the Hungry Hearts food crawl/blog tour! It has been an honour to be one of the co-hosts for Hungry Hearts, a book that now means so much to me and I think will mean a lot to you as well. I hope you have enjoyed everyone’s splendid reviews and posts, and that you will enjoy your stay at the Pond, where I will be reviewing the Hungry Hearts anthology and sharing you all my very own food crawl that I went on!
I want to give a big thank you and shoutout to all the amazing book bloggers who participated in this blog tour, for your time and enthusiasm to partake in our food crawl. A special thanks to the incredible Vicky from Vicky Who Reads, my co-host of this food crawl. 💛 And finally, a special thank you to both Elsie Chapman and Caroline T. Richmond, the editors of this anthology, and Jennifer Ung, for working with Vicky and I to make this dream of a blog tour happen!
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.
Listen: this is my favourite anthology ever. I’ve had the pleasure of reading many anthologies over the years, and whilst many anthologies have found their way into my heart, Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love not only understands my heart and soul, but it also found a way into my stomach. As a Malaysian-Chinese foodie, food is at the center of my life. Food is not only glorious because it’s delicious and can turn a bad day into a good day, but food is a way for me to connect to my identity, culture, and heritage, it is how I connect with others, and food, to me, can be an expression of joy, love, and belonging.
Hungry Hearts is a wonderful young-adult anthology that features interconnected stories set in Hungry Hearts Row, a tourist destination for its food but also home to its diverse community and people. Within Hungry Hearts Row are stories of love, hate, revenge, grief, victory and growth, and the stories range from romance to contemporary to urban fantasy to superheroes. Furthermore, the stories are rich in culture, and you will find a cultural diversity of characters who are, like any young-adult story, are navigating the challenges in their lives and may find what they are looking for in Hungry Hearts Row.
The stories in Hungry Hearts were absolutely brilliant, and this is one of the strongest and most consistent anthologies I have read. In other words, I have discovered so many new favourite short stories in this anthology. There is something for everyone in these stories, and I absolutely guarantee that there will be a story for you, friend, as well. And of course, to do the anthology justice, I absolutely had to write a mini-review of every single story.
Note: I read the short stories in Hungry Hearts in the order presented in my ARC, and reviewed each story immediately after reading them before reading the stories that followed.
Rain by Sangu Mandanna
Perhaps now one of my favourite short stories that I have ever read, Mandanna delivered and exceeded all my expectations of this anthology with her story, Rain. The story follows biracial Indian-British teen Anna, who travels with her father to the US following the death of her mother to live with her aunt. Rain was such a profound and emotionally evocative story, one that I now love with my whole heart, and one that I will remember fondly long after I finish this anthology. Mandanna’s story powerfully showcases how food can be an avenue of new relationships, but it can also help us heal and grieve and remind us of love. Food can be a part of heritage, memory, and family, and I could not have imagined a better story to begin with in an anthology about food and love.
Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman
Holy heck. This book blew all my expectations of this anthology out of the water, and then blew my mind. I was so caught off guard by this story, but it was so incredibly refreshing and exciting and brilliant. The story follows Ming, a Chinese teen whose parents own and run a Chinese restaurant. Not only does Ming help out with the kitchen duties, but Ming also helps her family run errands for a secret society that her family is a part of. This story was riveting and so gripping, and explored themes of loyalty, revenge, innocence, and the lengths we will go to protect family. In Chapman’s story, food is more than just something to eat – her story illustrates that food has meaning; it can mean childhood, love, and even hate. I was gripped by this story from start to finish – and it may be one of my favourite short stories of all time.
The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon
I absolutely loved this story, and it has all the softness and warmth that Menon’s books are reputable for. It follows Neha, a Desi teen and love guru/columnist, who challenges a reader who is struggling with confessing to their crush a week of adventure: eating alone, trying new cuisines, and without social media to build their confidence. Menon’s short story was so wonderful, and I loved how it examines the social experience of food and dining, and how eating alone can be quite a subversive and powerful thing. The romance here is so sweet and I found Neha to be such a relatable and charming protagonist. The Grand Ishq Adventure is a soft and soothing balm for any reader, for any occasion, and one to look forward to when reading Hungry Hearts.
Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco
Oh my goodness, this was everything you can expect from a Rin Chupeco story – deliciously dark, vengeful, and so so good. Written in the second-person perspective, Sugar and Spite follows Ami, a Filipino teen who has a gift of magic and follows in the footsteps of her lolas and learns to become a mangkukulam (or a witch). Not only was this incredible story about Filipino food, family secrets, identity, generational grudges, revenge, and of course, (justifiably) angry women, it’s also about being ostracised and bullied because of the things that make you different and how that intertwines with identity. This is one of the most compelling short stories I’ve read, and makes me more excited to see the books that Rin will write in the future.
Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid
Moments to Return is one of the quieter stories I’ve read so far in this anthology, but there’s something so special about this story by Adi Alsaid. The story follows Joko, a Montenegrin teen who visits Hungry Hearts Row as a tourist in search of food that can cure his fear of death and disconnection from the present moment. This was a wonderful and eloquent story about how food is not only a way to connect to the body, but food can also be an avenue to simply connect with the world around you. I enjoyed this quiet and contemplative story, the added touch of budding friendship, and how food can be an avenue of connection with yourself, others, and the present moment.
The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond
Wow, The Slender One was so, so good and I’m excited for you all, especially my Chinese friends, to read this story. This story follows Charlie, a Chinese teen whose family owns the Happy Horse Convenience Mart on Hungry Hearts Row. And… Charlie can talk to ghosts. Although Charlie wants to escape the familial expectations to take up his grandmother’s mantle of becoming the family’s next spiritual guide, when the Hungry Ghost Festival comes around, Charlie will have to confront his identity, his responsibilities, and his relationships with his friends and family. The Slender One may have some creepy elements, but I really loved how this story frames food as a part of life and ritual, particularly in the context of the Chinese Ghost Festival. Though it has its creepy moments, this was such a compelling and fun story to read. I can’t wait to read more of Richmond’s work.
Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles
At its heart, Gimme Some Sugar may be a simple story, but don’t underestimate its brilliant and quiet power. The story follows Leo (we saw him in Moments to Return!), a Black teen with anxiety and panic attacks who travels to Hungry Hearts Row to complete in a food competition and win the prize money that will help pay for ailing mother’s surgery. This story takes a gentle step back and offers a more atmospheric look at Hungry Hearts Row from Leo’s eyes, and also tells a great story about familial expectations and relationships, anxiety, and how food, tradition, and recipes are passed down families. I loved this story, loved the spectrum of emotions that Leo, a Black boy, was allowed to experience. Coles’s storytelling in Gimme Some Sugar is wonderful, authentic, and wholesome – just like soul food.
The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse
I… I’m scared. But also pleasantly terrified? This was such a brilliant story that will definitely catch you off guard. The Missing Ingredient follows Elsie, a biracial White and Native American teen who works in her parents’ restaurant, the Indigeneous Gastronomist. Since the death of her chef father, Kelsie’s white mother has tried her best to keep their restaurant going – at the detriment and cost of her relationship with her daughter. This story and its direction were completely surprising, but in the best way possible. Without giving this away, this story examines mother-daughter relationships, resentment, the prices we pay in moments of rage, and the things people are willing to sacrifice. I also want to say how this story may be an extended metaphor for cultural gentrification? Regardless, this story is one that will definitely generate discussion, as it’s packed with layers of thought-provoking themes.
Hearts À La Carte by Karuna Riazi
I’ve read all of Karuna Riazi’s work to date, and I think this short story, Hearts à La Carte, is probably her best story yet. The story follows Egyptian teen Munira, who looks after her family’s food cart, who meets Hasan, a mysterious boy who literally crash-lands in front of her and later becomes a frequent visitor and quick friend. The story frames food as an avenue and space for people to meet, talk, and connect in meaningful ways, and I loved how Riazi builds the relationship between Munira and Hasan, and how the story also delves into the conflict Munira feels about her future and direction in life (something I definitely relate to). Furthermore, what stood out to me was how this story subtly but decisively undermines the forgiveness tropes that we often see in these stories and that communication between them is consistently clear, which made the conflict and its resolution more authentic, less frustrating, and made me feel emotionally invested in their story. I can see this story being a favourite among readers – and that would be absolutely deserved.
Bloom by Phoebe North
I really loved this. Bloom is one of those rare slice-of-life stories that explore how life always seems to lead us to the people that we are meant to connect with, and I loved that. The story follows Naomi, a Jewish teen who works with her Pop (grandfather) at his deli. There, she meets a boy, Simon, a seemingly charming and intelligent boy, and together they start a relationship. I think this story explores how, sometimes, we become enamoured by the idea of people, how people present themselves at first can be very different to who they really are, and how, sometimes, the good thing may be right in front of you all along. This is such a wonderful ‘quiet’ story, and neatly juxtaposes the stories with higher stakes in this collection. I loved this, and will be thinking about this story and Naomi for the weeks to come.
A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali
A Bountiful Film is a little different to the other stories, but I enjoyed the direction of this story and how it unfolds. This story follows Hania, a filmmaking teen who decides to unravel the mystery of the missing boy in Hungry Hearts Row as the subject of her next film. Containing elements of mystery, I enjoyed this story and how it moves away from specific foods, but instead examines food – and by extension, Hungry Hearts Row – as not ‘just a place’ but a place of community where everyone is interconnected and help each other. There’s tension between Hania and her rival, who has always placed higher than Hania in all film competitions, but I liked how this story subverts the tropes you may expect!
Side Work by Sara Farizan
This might be one of my favourite stories in this collection! This story evoked a lot of strong emotions and perfectly articulates how I feel about food as a whole. The story follows Laleh, a Persian teen who works for her uncle’s Persian restaurant following an accident that changed her life. When an Italian restaurant chain opens across the road, Laleh finds hope after meeting with her old crush, who now works as a waitress in the restaurant. (Yes! This story is f/f between two Asian girls!) Rather than explore what happens in the past, Side Work is a story that looks to the future and explores tenuous family relationships, rekindling of relationships, and how food is not about profit but is about generosity, kindness, and warmth. A warm and hopeful story and I cannot wait to read more of Farizan’s work.
Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore
I was really excited to read this story because McLemore’s character, Lila, appears throughout the other stories in Hungry Hearts, always appearing at the right moment to give people pastries from her pastelería, giving them the strength and courage that they need. Despite what we may come to assume whilst reading Hungry Hearts, Lila is a Mexican teen who is shy, reserved, and doesn’t speak with words but speaks through her baking. When Gael, a trans Mexican boy, who moves back to town and brings tamales for her family’s pastelería, Lila finds herself a little lost for words and so she decides to express herself the way she does best – by putting all her feelings and all her emotion into baking. Panadería ~ Pastelería is everything you would expect from a story by McLemore – lovely, wholesome, and manages to say so much with such few words. The perfect story to end such an incredible anthology.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Hungry Hearts is now a new favourite book of mine, and I cannot wait for you all to read this. For those who love food, who connect with others through food, or just anyone looking to read a great and diverse anthology, Hungry Hearts will undoubtedly deliver, even with high expectations, and I foresee this anthology being a new favourite among many of you.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: An anthology of thirteen stories about food and its connection to identity, culture, and life.
Perfect for: Readers who love reading diverse anthologies; readers who love food; readers who are looking for an anthology that has a range of genres; readers who enjoy short stories.
Think twice if: … I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to read this.
Genre: young adult, anthology; genres include: contemporary, romance, horror, mystery, urban fantasy, science-fiction
Trigger/content warnings: death of loved one (Rain), death (Kings and Queens), frequent mentions of death (Moments to Return), bullying (Sugar and Spite), racism (Sugar and Spite), ill loved one (Kings and Queens, Gimme Some Sugar).
The Editors of Hungry Hearts
Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.
Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning young adult author, whose historical novels include The Only Thing to Fear, The Darkest Hour, and Live In Infamy. She’s also the co-editor of the anthology Hungry Hearts, which features stories about food and will come out in June 2019 from Simon Pulse. Her work is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich.
Caroline is also the Program Director of We Need Diverse Books, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for diversity in children’s publishing.
After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area Caroline now lives in Virginia with her family.
For the Hungry Hearts blog tour, the wonderful publishers at Simon Pulse have offered one physical copy of Hungry Hearts to a US winner, and I am sponsoring one physical copy of Hungry Hearts to an INTL winner (to anyone where Book Depository ships to). Click on this link to enter the giveaway.
Blog Tour Schedule
June 10th – Introduction
Vicky (Welcome + Interview)
June 11th – Karuna Riazi
June 13th – Jay Coles
Nikki (Review + Creative Post)
June 15th – Sara Farizan
June 17th – Adi Alsaid
Moon (Review + Creative Post)
June 19th – S. K. Ali
Mish (Review + Creative Post)
June 20th – Phoebe North
Kayla (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board)
June 23rd – Anna-Marie McLemore
Nox (Review + Creative Post)
June 24th – Closing
CW (Review + Food Crawl)
Friends, I loved this anthology to the moon and back and I am so excited for you all to read this wonderful gem. I hope you enjoyed my review, and that you enjoyed every stop at the blog tour! (If you have missed any stops, the schedule is above!)
But that’s not all – not only did I write a book review, I also posted about my experience going on my very own food crawl where I set off to try and find the food in all the stories!
- Have you read Hungry Hearts? What did you think?
- What is a food that relates to your connection to your identity or culture?
- Do you know any other books that feature food prominently in the story? Do you have any book recommendations?