Rummanah Aasi
Description: A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, 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.

Review: Listen, Slowly is a thought provoking story about reconnecting to your cultural roots and the secrets that shape our lives. Mai has been really looking forward to spending her summer vacation at the beach and finally having a chance to talk to her secret crush before starting junior high. Her plans are derailed when her parents announce that she will be escorting her grandmother to Vietnam instead. New information may have surfaced about her long lost grandfather, who disappeared over 40 years ago in the Vietnam War. 
 Mai is not familiar with her family roots. She doesn't speak Vietnamese or doesn't know the culture, and everything she knows about Vietnam is from a PBS documentary on the Fall of Saigon. While her parents are excited for her to learn more about her roots, Mai is aware of how her own parents came to America since its a topic that they really talk about. I really connected with Mai because I too didn't know much of my Pakistani relatives and background when I visited Pakistan for the first time when I was in elementary school. The lost in translation experience rang true to me and I loved watching Mai grow and embrace her Vietnamese heritage. 
  The contrast between Mai's life of luxury in America is a stark contrast of that living in a village with limited internet access and other amenities. The sights, smells, and tastes of Vietnam's cities and villages come alive on the page and transports the reader to the setting. There are plenty of touching and funny moments in the story that are balanced well with the more serious, dark tones as Mai witnesses her grandmother's desperate attempts to find out how her husband lived his last days. I enjoyed how Mai slowly makes friends and bonds with her grandmother, with whom she was very close as a small child. Mai's character growth is slow and believable. She begins to appreciate and acknowledge of how privileged she is as well as gaining a new respect for her elders.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mention of bribing and war violence in the book. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Gaither Sissters series by Rita Williams-Garcia, Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
4 Responses
  1. This sounds like a great coming of age novel and I like that it focuses on Vietnam and the war. I still don't know as much as I would like about that time in history. I also think the cover for this one is stunning. So colorful.


  2. Oh sounds like the perfect growth book. You have me curious. Might be a good gifting book as well.


  3. I like stories about people learning their culture and getting in touch with their family.


  4. Kindlemom Says:

    I think this would appeal to me as well, there is so much about my culture I wish I knew and I would love to go visit where my family came from and learn more.


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