TANGLED THREADS: A Hmong Girl's Story

Pegi Deitz Shea, Author . Clarion $15 (236p) ISBN 978-0-618-24748-6

First-time novelist Shea (author of a nonfiction title about the Hmong people, The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee's Story) deftly traces the physical and emotional journey of a 13-year-old orphan from Laos, who is assimilated into American society. Despite the characters' confined living space, the author paints a picturesque backdrop of peaceful mountain landscapes where water buffalo graze, and where "green shoots of rice peeked up from flooded paddies." After spending 10 years in a refugee camp in Thailand, Mai Yang and her grandmother travel to rejoin their extended family in Providence, R.I. While Mai Yang's grandmother reluctantly abandons her Hmong lifestyle (as Mai Yang hurries her grandmother along, the woman says, "Hush! My eyes are saying goodbye"), Mai Yang eagerly anticipates seeing her relatives and embracing the challenges of learning English and attending school. Upon her arrival in America, however, Mai Yang is shocked by her cousins' rebellious, disrespectful behavior. She also feels weighed down by her grandmother's childlike dependence upon her. While eloquently expressing how the threads tying Mai Yang to her heritage become entangled with new values, the author creates a delicate, credible balance between sorrow and joy, and builds dramatic tension as Mai Yang struggles to become American without losing her Hmong identity. Besides learning much about Hmong culture and attitudes, readers gain an opportunity to observe American society from a different vantage point as Mai Yang is inundated with sometimes disturbing, sometimes remarkable images of contemporary culture. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/22/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Children's
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