Freedom Hope Dreams Education Opportunit y New Life Family Change Decisions Traditions A merica
“Good-bye land of war, land of prisons, land of lies.” Death Rape Filth Hunger Miss Sayapong PASS School
C onfusion “’Look Grandma! I pointed at my cup. The squares turned into water.’ We shook our heads at each other. How were we supposed to know?” “This is cold?” “I didn’t understand. ‘My own…room?” “Will I kill us with what I don’t know?” “Parents always told their kids who they could be with, what they could do. If the kids disobeyed, shouldn’t they get hit? I struggled to hide my confusion.” English $$$$
What religion do I believe? Do I want to be a good Hmong girl? Do I want a traditional Hmong life? Do I want to be “American” or “Hmong”? Can I be both ? Do I listen to my family? Do I listen to my friends? Do I lie? “I have never lied before.” Are Heather and Lisa good for me? How do I handle my anger towards Grandma? How should I confront her? How do I make Grandma proud? How do I make her smile? Where do I want to fit in? D ecisions
Love Hate Caregiver Dependent Proud Traditional Pa’ndau Acceptance Protector Strong Vibrant Lost Life Line Dominant Independent G randma
Mai struggles to keep her Hmong identity and traditions while trying to adjust to her new American life. “The Hmong are fiercely independent hills tribes who have populated the southwestern Chinese Provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Kwangsi for more than 4,200 years.” p 221
Mai struggles constantly with the independence a new American life offers and the obligation to her Grandmother and her previous way of life. “’In my home Mai will obey me,’ Grandma insisted. Heather whispered to me in English, ‘A battle for Mai’s soul. Who will win?’ ‘Me’, I replied under my breath. I chomped into the cross and bit off the whole top.” p 163
“My hands touched my sash and my collar, and I thought, Grandma is here, and I touched my silver necklace, here, and my jingling hat, here. Then I lifted my hands high into the air and twirled once slowly, here and everywhere.” p 219 Mai blames herself for her grandmother’s death. She came to America with her grandmother at her side and now she must continue on the rest of the journey without her.
“Lies could help, I reasoned. They weren’t always wrong. It would be okay for me. One tiny harmless lie, only one.” p87 “If I told the truth, Heather and Lisa would hate me.” p87 Mai wants to do the right thing… but what is right gets more unclear everyday.
“I remembered the encouraging words of Miss Sayapong in camp: ‘Keep learning, Mai. That is how to thank me.’” p176 Mai works hard studying during her first Summer in America so that she may join her regular eighth grade class in the fall. “I didn’t think much about pa’ndau anymore. My eyes were hungry for words! p 174
“Mai is beautiful as an orchid, but has the strength of a tiger.” p 219 Mai is a smart girl with hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow in America. She struggles often with her own emotions. She wants to follow her Hmong traditions, but she is curious about the American way of life. Mai begins to find herself and slowly untangles the threads of her life.
Happy New Year! “A new year of luck, health, and happiness jingled in the air, and here I was safe and swirling, inside it.” p 220 As the New Year arrives, Mai finally begins to make peace with herself over her inner struggles. She finally understands there is a way to balance the traditions and beliefs of her old Hmong lifestyle with her new life here in America.
O Is for Obedient. Mai struggles to understand how and why American children disobey their elders so easily. It’s almost fascinating to her to the point where she wants to try it herself.
P Is for PASS, Preparation for American Secondary School. This is where Mai learned many things about American culture. She felt safe and protected there by her teacher Miss Sayapong who helped her get to America.
Q Is for Qeej, the wind instruments made of bamboo. This symbolizes the happiness Grandmother felt when she witnessed Hmong customs being practiced in America, like the dancing the girls performed.
R Is for Refugee. Mai spent ten years of her life as a prisoner in camps. Her dream was to be with her family in America and not spend her life as a Refugee anymore.
S Is for Secrets. In America Mai learns that there are many secrets in her precious family. The secret Grandmother keeps from her is the most hurtful, yet Mai waits months to confront her about it.
T Is for Threadworm, the stomach sickness Mai suffers from. She caught it in the refugee camp and it plagued her until she was treated by American doctors and medicine.
for Unite “Only the shaman could rid my body of its bad spirits. Only the shaman could unite my wayward souls.” page 1
for Vietnam “The Thai, the Lao, even most Americans didn’t believe that the Pathet Lao – the Communists who were the new rulers of Laos – had used poisoned gas against us after the Vietnam War.” page 10
for Westerners “ Hmong children never disobeyed. From what I saw last night, I guessed American children did all the time. It seemed as if nobody was in charge of an American family.” page 90
for Xenophobia “Heather had told me about the gangs. How when the Hmong first came to Providence, other kids picked on us, beat us up. Some Hmong started sticking together for protection and fighting back.” page 125
for Yang “… my Yang ancestry. Slowly I traced the whorls of Yang men who had fought for freedom from the Chinese, Yang women who tried to save the forbidden Hmong alphabet by stitching the characters into pa’ndau, Yang who fought the Japanese and then the Communists.” page 212
for Zis “ ‘…The doctors are doing some tests. They took blood from you and some samples of, uh, your quav and zis [urine].’” page 133 Characters use Hmong words throughout the novel, lending strong cultural authenticity.
The ABCs of Tangled Threads created by Amy Parsons (A-G) Kim Irvin (H-N) Nickey Druley (O-T) Susan Lynch (U-Z)