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Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl's Story Hardcover – September 22, 2003

18 customer reviews

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Discover our hand-selected picks of the best books for kids of all ages. Browse by age: Baby-2 | Ages 3-5 | Ages 6-8 | Ages 9-12.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-Mai, 13, is practicing her English in eager anticipation of leaving the crowded Thai refugee camp where she and her grandmother have lived for 10 years. Her parents were killed in Laos and her grandmother carried her across the river to Thailand. As their departure for America nears, Grandma is withdrawn and always stitching away at her pa'ndau (story cloth). Mai yearns for the life her cousins write about, a land of skyscrapers, Coke, and plenty of food, but her arrival in Rhode Island brings mixed reactions. Her cousins have become rebellious, Americanized teens. Her aunt and uncle half-heartedly embrace Hmong tradition while feeling indebted to Christian charity. Grandma's confusion over the day-to-day navigation through social-service agencies, stores, even church bazaars, makes her increasingly reliant on her granddaughter. Mai's efforts to respect her beloved grandmother and all she represents are at odds with the allure of new friends and an exciting lifestyle. This bittersweet story balances social and intellectual pursuits against the strained relations of a family tapping roots into a new homeland, and it shows the emotions behind weighing cultural affiliations against the sway of progress and prosperity. Adding to the growing ranks of contemporary novels about today's diverse immigration experiences, it would work well in conjunction with Fran Buss's Journey of the Sparrows (Dell, 1993), Linda Crew's Children of the River (Laurel-Leaf, 1991), and An Na's A Step from Heaven (Front St., 2001). A good choice for classes studying refugees, multicultural diversity, immigration, Hmong Americans, Laos, and the Vietnam War.
Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-8. Thirteen-year-old Laotian Mai Yang and her grandmother have survived the war that killed Mai's parents and 10 years in a Thai camp for Hmong refugees, so Mai is excited when immigration to the U.S. appears imminent. They fly to Providence, R.I., to join a family who emigrated five years earlier. Excited and confused by her experiences with American culture, Mai worries about her cousin Heather who challenges her father's authority. With the help of a compassionate teacher and sympathetic new friends, Mai becomes comfortable with American ways even as her grandmother isolates herself and fears assimilation. As seen through Mai's eyes, the wry observations of American habits are amusing and insightful. Her explanations of Hmong culture fit so naturally into the narrative, most readers will not need the appended glossary and information. Respectful and dutiful, yet resilient and independent, Mai wrestles with peer pressure and family expectations in a story that will resonate with immigrant students and enlighten others. Linda Perkins
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (September 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618247483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618247486
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hi! Thanks for your interest in my work. I LOVE to meet readers at school visits and teacher conferences, and share my writing processes. Please visit www.pegideitzshea.com for details.

Right now, I'm celebrating the release of my new YA novel, STITCH IN TIME, a sequel to TANGLED THREADS about the Hmong refugee, Mai, first introduced in my picture book, THE WHISPERING CLOTH. Mai reunites with her crush from camp, Yia, but he wants her to become a mother to his sons rather than pursue art school. STITCH IN TIME is available on Kindle as well as in paperback on Amazon.

I'm working on several projects as usual, revising two novels: SNAKE BOY, SISTER SPY, a YA novel based on the teen exploits of my aunt and uncle in the French Resistance during WWII; and THE JERSEY DEVIL, a novel set in the NJ Pine Barrens in 1979 when gambling returned to Atlantic City. "Angie" is a budding folk singer/songwriter. I'm still working with UCONN marine biologists on a series called AQUANAUTS: TEEN HEROES OF THE SEAS.

I teach writing at the University of Connecticut, the Mark Twain House and Highlights Foundation. I love sharing my knowledge, energy, and passion for writing. I also love sports, travel and reading, of course.

Learn more about me at my website, or email me at pegideitzshea@aol.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When you read any book about a particular immigrant experience, your greatest hope is that it distinguish itself in some way. There are many good books about coming to America from war torn countries but many more so-so books on the same topic. In the case of "Tangled Threads" by Pegi Deitz Shea, the book had the job of being interesting, informative, and (most difficult of all) genuinely touching. And it does, to some extent. As other reviewers of this book have mentioned, some of the Hmong words in this tale are misspelled and it's debatable whether or not this accurately depicts the Hmong-American teen experience. But Shea has written a truly interesting book, one that deftly balances the heaviness of its subject with lighter more hopeful feelings. It is not a book for small children or those kids who are reluctant readers, but it's a good book all the same. A boon to the world of Hmong-centric children's literature.

Having basically grown up in the dirt and squalor of a Thai refugee camp, Mai has spent her existence learning the art of pa'ndau, or storycloth from her grandmother. Her dream has always been to join her uncle, aunt, and cousins in America. Now, with her stomach ailments growing worse and the refugee camps threatening to close, grandmother and granddaughter are able to leave their homeland behind and travel across the ocean to Providence, Rhode Island. Mai expects that all her problems will be gone once she reaches that magical land. Instead, she finds worlds, both outside and insider her home, difficult to navigate. Her grandmother is reticent and displeased with everything new in America. Her uncle and cousins are constantly at war with one another over boundaries and choices.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Taghi Aboutorabian on December 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is actually a very good book because for me, it succeeds in portraying what the author wants to reveal. It makes you understand how an immigrant, has to deal with different issues involving coming to America and learning new customs and beliefs. It deals with issues teenagers are faced with right now everywhere in the world, and how immigrants from other countries look upon these actions.

This book taught me a lot of different things about Hmong cultures and customs and how people lived in camps. It showed the differences between living styles here and there and how much of a change Mai and her grandmother had to do before adapting to the living environment here. It conveyed all the struggles needed to overcome such a change and how adapting to a place could take time, whether you are an adult or a child. Things and aspects that we find normal and understandable seem different and abnormal to outsiders. It is hard to change when you don't know or understand why you are changing or what you are changing too.

I could relate to some of the things and situations Mai had to go through. Although I am not an immigrant and I have lived here all my life, there are certain situations you are put in where you don't want to be. In Mai's case, she didn't know what was happening but teenagers everyday are faced with issues that may affect their life. I know a lot of people who drink although they are underage, and even though I don't do it, it's hard to watch them throw away their lives without caring. When you care about a person a lot, it becomes difficult to watch them suffer or know that there will be consequences to the decisions they chose to make.

It wasn't always the kids who had a hard time adapting. In this case, it was more of the elder.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "catapilla" on March 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
and adjusting to change, but I felt some of the situations did not portray the true way of life for Hmong teens.
I'm surprised that with so many people editing and contributing feedback to this book, how come there were consistent Hmong spelling errors? I question why the only Hmong words that were used repeatedly were derrogative ones? ('Raum' which was meant to be 'ruam', meaning stupid)The pronounciation keys could use some work too.
I do appreciate the interesting facts about the paj ntaub designs. This skill is being deprecated and the knowledge being written will be useful.
This book should inspire Hmongs to create a voice that will ring true and represent the complicated emotions of growing up in America and holding on to your roots.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kelia Jonson on July 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book was very good. I believe it to be accurate and without any faults. Now, for the woman who said that the spelling in the book of Hmong words was wrong, please let me out in my opinion......if you look in the back of the book at the glossary, the author does say when she abbreviates words (for example pan'dau is really panjdau)so they aren't really mispelled! This book is good for people interested in immigration, or the Oreint, but should be read by Young Adults because there is mentioning of rape and menstrauting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This Book is awesome. I would recomend this to people ages 10 and up. A young girls journy to America and new experiances. Hard times, awesome foods, and much much more. AWESOME!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Hall Bleibtreu on January 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is about a Hmong girl struggling to fit in the new American culture, with strange foods like pizza and giant shopping malls all around. Her grandma is very doubtful of this new culture and many times wishes for her old life. As their time in America passes, secrets are revealed and her destiny in America unfolds.

This book is a great read for teenagers and young students, the story line allows young readers to relate to the character, so they can understand her feelings. It has an interesting Introduction to the book when they describe the conditions and scenery in the Hmong holding camps. Throughout the book the young girl tries to adapt to the modern culture. The difficulties she has in separating her time with her old culture and the new one is thrilling. The progress of her relationship with her grandmother rollercoaster's over her travel to America, This allows the teen reader to compare it with a relationship they may have with a parent or family member, this provides an excellent experience for the reader and future entertainment throughout the book.

The downfalls of this book is that there is no in depth information about the Hmong culture, it focuses more on a average girl's life than the Hmong traditions and way's of the people. In the book the life of the girl before America is brief and that is one of the important details for a reader who is trying to learn anything they can about the Hmong. The reading level for this book is also very limited, this book is only a good read for children between the ages of eleven and thirteen. Anyone older will have trouble being entertained because all the characters have basic backgrounds and the plot is extremely typical.

I recommend this book to a teen in middle school. Overall it is a catchy book yet it lacks concrete information about the Hmong people and their history.
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