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New Middle-Grade Novel Connects Readers To Their Heritage

In the decades since the end of the Vietnam War, this country’s relationship with Vietnam has changed a lot.  The two countries have strong economic ties now, but perhaps more importantly, more Americans are traveling there as tourists – including many Americans who once fought there as soldiers.

At the same time, there’s now a generation of Vietnamese-Americans who are growing up with no firsthand knowledge of the Vietnam War.  One such girl is at the center of a new middle-grade novel by award-winning writer Thanhha Lai.  Listen, Slowly sends the character, Mai, to her ancestral home, where she starts to come to terms with the Vietnamese part of her Vietnamese-American identity.  Thanhha Lai spoke with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich about the importance of cultural identity in young readers.

"At that age it seems very, very important to be alike with the crowd. And this happens with everyone, no matter what your heritage. By the time you're in college, suddenly you're reclaiming the name that your mom has been calling you at home all these years," said Lai.

Thanhha Lai’s latest novel for middle grade readers is called Listen, Slowly.  She was in Milwaukee recently to talk about the book at Boswell Book Company.