Listen Slowly. ( Ages 9+)
By : Thanhha Lai
Publisher : Harpercollins ( Feb.,2015)
Home is where the family is! Among many literary pieces written about the subject of second and third generation immigrants,this stands out due to it`s beautiful descriptive language with a touch of humor.
Mai who`s Mia to her American friends is a second generation Vietnamese American girl.Being a daughter of two professional parents she grew up sheltered from the struggling days of her parents early lives which also consisted of many years of cultural displacement.. An intelligent girl with exceptional grades she was planing to spend her holiday season in the Laguna beach with her friends.To experience her first romance ,But she was bombed with the news that she was expected to accompany her grandmother,who received some information about her long lost husband in the war, to Vietnam for the holiday season. The story kick starts at the scene inside airplane with Mai still trying to show her displeasure of having forced to go to Vietnam. And her thoughts are beautifully expressed here "I`m a Laguna beach girl who can paddle-board one-legged and live on fish tacos and mango smoothies.My parents should be thanking the Buddha for a daughter like me:A no - lip gloss no - short shorts twelve year old.........I should at least be able to spend the summer resting my brain at the beach "
This is the journey of finding oneself. Despite her Vietnamese background she`s an alien in Vietnam with her lack of knowledge of her language and culture. She struggles to survive in Vietnam, counting days to go back home at, the beginning.
The story provide us a rich setting with lots of information about the southeast Asian land. Equally every character is introduced in a well defined descriptive manner through Mai`s humor full intelligent narrations. For example her soft and loving Ba (Grandmother) she says is always in "soft brown home sewn clothes" and her old age is lovingly expressed through "Ba really does have the best smile.Lines spread like outstretched fingers at the corners of her eyes and tiny spears circle her mouth the way I used to draw the sun`s rays. The skin on hands has wrinkles shaped like puzzle pieces,clicking together just so. Her hair is mostly white now really thin,She`s seventy nine you know,so the onion at her nape what she calls her bun,is much smaller ............"
As the time passes, slowly she learns to appreciate her people,food history and culture.And as she acquires new language skills and meet new friends with whom she explore .......she learns to create a bridge between her two worlds.Mia returns back to California as a true Vietnamese - American girl.
The story is completed with adventures,humor and delicious descriptions to keep readers engaged.
Thanhha Lai is the author of National Book Award winning and Newbery Honor book "Inside Out and Back Again"