- The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley
Since the Chinese government began to encroach upon the coal-rich lands of the ethnic Uyghur minority, fourteen-year-old Mehrigul's farming family has had some difficult times. Her older brother ran away to escape prosecution after his involvement in anti-Chinese demonstrations, and now his share of the farming tasks has fallen upon his younger sister, forcing her to quit school. When one of Mehrigul's decorative handwoven baskets catches the eye of an American buyer at the local market, Mehrigul is offered what seems to be a ridiculous amount of money for it, with the promise of more to come if she continues to produce baskets. Instead of relieving some of her family's struggles, however, Mehrigul's windfall and newly appreciated talent only augment the tension in her family as a host of repressed resentments roil to the surface. Mehrigul's drunken, deceitful father steps easily into the role of villain, but La Valley sensitively reveals the roots of his pain in the loss of both his son and his status as provider for the family. The subtext of political advocacy for the Uyghur minority is unmistakable and may lead a few more socially minded readers to further explore the conflict, but it's the carefully honed plot and palpable family tensions that will resonate with most youngsters.