Mai Ya's Long Journey

by Sheila Terman Cohen

The Wisconsin Historical Society contributes to the slowly growing, important body... read more

The Wisconsin Historical Society contributes to the slowly growing, important body of literature for children about the Hmong with a profile of Mai Ya Xiong. Born in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand in 1980, Mai Ya and her family came to the United States—settling in Madison—in 1987. The narrative touches on ways Mai Ya, her family, and other Hmong have adapted many traditional customs and practices to life in the United States. Mai Ya has worked to balance her roles as a Hmong daughter and American teen. She continues that balancing act in her adulthood. She is the first girl in her family to attend and finish college, consciously rejecting the cultural practice of marrying young, but as an adult Mai Ya has also dedicated significant time to helping Hmong children and teens feel connected to and proud of their culture. Author Sheila Cohen was Mai Ya’s English as a Second Language teacher in middle school. Her opening chapters provide a concise and helpful summary of the history of the Hmong, including the role they played during the Vietnam War to aid U.S forces and their harrowing flight from Laos in the years that followed because of the dangers of remaining. While better captioning on some of the small, black-and-white photographs included would have been helpful, and the in-context pronunciation and footnoted definitions of some words feels somewhat intrusive, this is a valuable resource nonetheless. (Ages 8–12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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