A tenderly crafted narrative that compassionately portrays the struggles of refugees in an unfamiliar place.
By Lisa M. Hamilton ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 2023
A deeply reported story of aspiration and desperation among an immigrant Hmong community in California’s Central Valley, Hamilton’s protagonist Ia was born with the name Ai, meaning small, in 1964, when Laos was descending into civil war. An aid worker changed her name to the Hmong word for bitterness. When the Communists took over in 1975, most of her Hmong community had to flee to Thailand. In the refugee camp, they lost their self-reliant lives as farmers and the women had to take up needlework to be the breadwinners while the men were barely employed. Ia, now a mother, decided to take her chances and moved to America, settling in Fresno. Despite the lack of sympathy for those displaced by the wars in Southeast Asia, Ia found a way to make a living. She planted a kind of rice highly prized by Southeast Asian connoisseurs and Hmong people, selling it for a much higher price. This rice was a medium for memory, a spiritual bridge that connected her to her homeland. Though it brought money and self-sufficiency, Ia’s small farm could not always lift her from the spiritual malaise of exile. Her mother’s words of encouragement in the face of hardship, “Next year you can start all over again,” gave her hope.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: yesterday
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023