Written by Thanhhà Lại
A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.
Primary Source Pairing:
Listen Slowly is a journey into family life in Vietnam. As Mai discovers the country of her extended family, and as her beloved grandmother seeks answers about her husband’s disappearance during the Vietnam War, Mai ultimately finds herself and realizes what is most important in life. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze an image of a body of water in Vietnam, somewhat resembling the cover art. How does this photograph connect to Mai’s experiences in the book? Refer students also to the Vietnam map at the front of the book to track the movement of the story.
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe what you see.
- What do you notice first?
- What people and objects are shown?
- How are they arranged?
- What is the physical setting?
- What, if any, words do you see?
- What other details can you see?
- What’s happening in the image?
- What can you learn from examining this image?
- How does this image connect to what to what you read in the book Listen, Slowly?
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Vietnam photograph: Thomson.co.uk