cover image A Two-Placed Heart

A Two-Placed Heart

Doan Phuong Nguyen. Tu, $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64379-642-0

In this yearning verse novel by Nguyen (Mèo and Bé), an older sister endeavors to connect her sibling to their Vietnamese heritage. Twelve-year-old Bom is concerned by her younger sister Bo’s fading memories of Vietnam. The siblings communicate in English despite Ba’s scolding and the fact that Má “doesn’t understand/ the English words we use.” Noticing that “my tiêng Viêt disappears/ a little at a time,” Bom wonders “what kind of person doesn’t know/ their own language?” As an aspiring writer, Bom decides to transcribe her family’s history, addressing her writings to Bo. Bom recalls the hardships her family endured in Vietnam, describing what she knows of her father’s seven-year imprisonment in 1975 after the Vietnam War, her parents’ subsequent arranged marriage, and her and Bo’s births. She goes on to chronicle their new life in 1996 Tennessee, following their sponsorship from a Nashville Presbyterian church in 1991. Nguyen’s touching fictionalization of personal experiences, as addressed in an author’s note, reflects the push-pull of a young immigrant’s fear that with acclimation comes loss of cultural identity. Includes a pronunciation guide, glossary, and family tree. Ages 9–13. Agent: Sara Megibow, KT Literary. (Sept.)