Who am I? Where do I belong? Who can I trust? These are questions that all children ask as they grow older, but for twelve-year-old Tracy these questions haunt her. In the moving story Dogtag Summer, Tracy knows that her mother was Vietnamese and she was adopted when she was six, just after the Vietnam War ended. But her parents won't share any other real information with her. So she is left with a hole in her heart, an empty place inside her.
As Tracy searches for her identity, a sense of home and where she belongs, she remembers bit by bit more of her childhood. Each chapter begins with a brief snippet of a memory, almost like a fragment of a dream, of Tracy's childhood in Vietnam. She remembers living with her grandmother, having her mother visit her, and running away from the bright lights of an American jeep. She remembers the villagers calling her con-lai, or 'half-breed', because her father was an American GI. But she can't remember enough to put all the pieces together, to fill the longing in her heart.
Partridge conveys Tracy's emotional struggle realistically, showing how this young girl is torn by the secrets stifling her home, and yet how she is unable to really articulate what it is she needs to understand. Her writing is both accessible and full of wonderful images. I can't wait share this with students.