I spent the first 50 pages of Thanhhà Lai’s Listen, Slowly comparing it to her National Book Award and Newbery Honor winning book Inside Out & Back Again. I do this a lot. I fall in love with a book by an author, I anxiously await another book by that author, and then I compare the new book to the last book written by the author. I’m not sure if this a good idea.
Once I stopped comparing Listen, Slowly to Inside Out & Back Again, I realized that I was reading a pretty special book.
I grew up in a small town where more than 95% of the residents are white. I now teach in that exact same town. A lot of people grow up like this. Everyone sort of looks like us. We all do pretty much the same things for fun. I’m not saying this because I want to make the point that this book allowed me to see the world through the lens of a young California girl with Vietnamese parents. I say this because I loved reading about a girl learning about her heritage.
Mia is a super smart 12 year old girl that lives in beautiful sunny California. Her summer is turned upside down when she learns that she will have to travel to the other side of the world to help her grandmother uncover some truths about her long lost husband. Mia as you would expect is not crazy about the idea of spending her summer away from the beach.
Watching Mia spend her summer in a strange land, a land where her family grew up, was mesmerizing to me. I think we often forget that just because you have a certain background, doesn’t mean you know much about where you came from. I loved watching Mia experience Vietnam. It makes me wonder what someone from Vietnam visiting Parma, Michigan would think.
Mia’s journey gave me a whole new appreciation for the small town that I grew up in and the big world I live in.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Listen, Slowly hits shelves 2/17/15,