Reviewed by Lu Yang
How would it feel if you were suddenly sent to a place that is totally culturally different? For California-born and raised 12-year old Mai, the trip to Vietnam seems like a perfect disaster. Especially that she has been looking forward to spending the summer at the beach. With her best girl friend and close to a boy she secretly admires. Now, however, she has to accompany her grandmother to Vietnam. Ba wants find out about her husband, who disappeared during the Vietnam War. Perhaps Mai grandfather is still alive?
The unexpected trip becomes Mai’s journey of self-discovery. A Vietnamese-American, she initially thinks about Vietnam as her parents’ home, but identifies herself as uni-cultural. After the initial cultural shock, Mai learns more about Vietnam and its culture. She rediscovers her ancestral culture and recognizes herself as bi-cultural. Nor would she mind staying in Vietnam for another two weeks. This novel offers a compelling account of a cultural journey made by a bicultural teenager. It opens a window on Vietnam’s culture and history—drawing attention to salient differences between these and the culture of upper middle class California. It is a lovely novel to read, highly recommend to Middle School and High School students.
by Thanhha Lai
Harper Collins, 2015
Lu is a Second Language Education student who is a Mom raising her Asian-American boy to be bi-cultural.