Pick Up The Donut Trap For a Sweet Rom-Com That's More Than Just a Sugar Rush

Jasmine Tran is stuck. The narrator of Julie Tieu’s The Donut Trap ($14) graduated from UCLA in a tailspin, and when we catch up with her, she’s already spent a year working at Sunshine Donuts with her parents, dodging her parents’ intrusive questions about her love life (or lack thereof) and career path . . . or lack thereof. “I was as basic as they come,” she says. “Like Helvetica, but in human form.”

The monotony shatters when Jas reconnects with Alex Lai, a college crush who turns out to be hot, successful, and sweeter than she’d imagined. He introduces her to hiking, she introduces him to Dodgers baseball, and their chemistry is off the charts. Their relationship is moving fast, though, and suddenly Jas’s parents are talking about marriage while Jas is still trying to figure out if she and Alex are actually exclusive. Plus the rent just went up on Sunshine Donuts, but Jas’s overworked parents are stubbornly unwilling to shake things up and make the business more profitable.

At the root of Jas’s problems with her parents is a generational gap they can’t seem to bridge. As Chinese-Cambodian immigrants, Jas’s parents came to the US as refugees and worked their entire lives to give her and her younger brother a future. Every interaction Jas has with them is shaded with this knowledge and their sky-high expectations, all while navigating a deep linguistic, cultural, and emotional divide. Jas isn’t happy, but she struggles “to find the right words to explain how I was feeling without coming across as ungrateful.” You can feel her frustration and helplessness as she repeatedly tries and fails to connect with her parents.

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