Thursday 25 October 2018

Too Young to Escape

Finished October 19
Too Young to Escape: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to be Reunited with Her Family by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

This children's book tells the story of Van Ho, beginning in May 1981. Van woke up at her usual time of 5:00 a.m. one morning, noticing that most of her family wasn't there. Her mother and older sisters often rose early to get a start on their work, but her older brother Tuan wasn't there either. Only herself and her grandmother Bà Ngoại were there. She closed her eyes again as her grandmother rose, and got up when she left their sleeping quarters. Van had some breathing issues, and took a bitter medicine in the mornings to clear her lungs and help with her breathing. After washing, she went down to the level where her aunt and uncle, owners of the house they lived in, slept and quietly took their slippers in, placing them by the bed, for them when they awoke. Then she continued down to the main floor, where she began her task of spinning fiber for rice bags. She continued as her grandmother returned from the market and began cooking breakfast. As it grew light and she heard the movement of her aunt and uncle in the room above her, she stopped and made a trip to the outhouse, coming in to wash her hands and eat her breakfast. She wrapped the remainder of her portion in a ragged dishtowel and put it in her backpack for school. Then she went back down and dusted the main room, then left for school. Van was 4 years old.
As she soon discovered, her mother and siblings had left in the night, heading by boat for Canada, where Van's father and oldest sister had already found haven as refugees.
Van lived in Ho Chi Minh City for another nearly four years as she waited for her family to send for her. She adjusted, made a friend, and enjoyed the packages that came from Canada for the household. She missed her family, but was young enough, she found them harder to remember as the months went by. When she finally was sent for, she and her grandmother had the proper documents and were able to fly to Toronto to meet up with the rest of the family. But even that was quite an adventure.
This story brings to life the situations and circumstances that the Vietnam refugees fled, and creates some understanding for young readers of the difficulties faced by them.
The day to day reality of life in Vietnam for Van and her grandmother are shown in detail, and the photos included here allow the reader to connect with the young girl.
I remember welcoming Vietnamese refugees in my community years before this time, and still have a small gift that one young girl gave to me as I helped her adjust to her new life, so this story really hit home for me.

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