Thursday, September 05, 2019

Butterfly Yellow

Lai, Thanhhà. Butterfly Yellow
Expected publication: September 3rd 2019 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hằng's brother, Linh, was taken in Operation Babylift in 1975, and Hằng was left behind. She has felt guilty ever since, and after six years, at the age of 18, has finally made it to the U.S. She is to live with an uncle, but shortly after arriving, she has her cousin drive her to the bus stop so that she can go to an address in Amarillo, Texas to find her brother. She misses getting back on the bus during a break. Another traveler, LeeRoy, is at the gas station, on his way to meet a famous  rodeo rider, hoping to get work on the man's ranch. His parents, both college professors, would rather he go to Yale, but he thinks the cowboy life is romantic. This is something he shares with Hằng, who loves the idea of horses in the US west. An elderly couple give LeeRoy money for him to take Hằng to the address she has, and he does so unwillingly. When the two get there, the house is abandoned, but a neighbor lady takes Hằng in and shows her a Christmas card from the woman who has adopted Linh. LeeRoy is unsuccessful at meeting his idol, and ends up taking Hằng to her brother. Linh has no memory of her, and his mother is ready to call the police. Hằng's uncle arrives, and after an odd string of events, LeeRoy and Hằng end up working at the horse ranch where Linh (now David) is taking riding lessons while the two earn enough money to fix LeeRoy's car. Mr. Morgan gives LeeRoy a chance to find out about real cowboy life, and Hằng gets to have some interaction with her brother, and revels in growing fruit and vegetables. Hằng slowly improves her English language abilities, gets to know her brother a bit, and develops a gentle romance with LeeRoy while trying to establish a new life in the US.
Strengths: I would love to see more books about Vietnam refugees in the US; I can't think of a single one but Paterson's 1988 Park's Quest. Lai is very clever about the way she writes Hằng's dialogue-- it has a Vietnamese flavor to the words, complete with diacritical markings. I also enjoyed Hằng diagramming sentences! Her love of her brother, and her desire to reconnect with him is as understandable as his lack of desire to connect with her. The scenes on the horse ranch are interesting, and the Texas landscape a good setting.
Weaknesses: Hằng's dialogue was difficult for me to decipher, and students might have even more problems. LeeRoy is a very odd and not very likable character. 
What I really think:
While I need books on this topic, I am not sure that this is the title I need. I have a friend whose aunt and uncle (who were estranged from his side of the family for different reasons) adopted a Vietnamese child around this time period and raised her on their Iowa farm. That is more what I was looking for. While both LeeRoy and Hằng are eighteen, this is definitely a middle grade book. Perhaps if the story were told through Linh's eyes? Just not sure about this one, but since I really need titles on this topic, I may purchase.

Look! Jeans! I have an all day meeting at another location, so I pulled out my Lee trouser jeans. Of course, the blouse and sweater are Lands End. I always feel the need to accessorize with a pin or necklace. These are almost always thrift store finds, although I also have a vast collection of pieces from my relatives as well as entire collections from coworkers. If someone's grandmother dies, I generally end up with some fantastic pieces.

This necklace was my  mother's; I can tell because she actually dressed in good taste and her pieces are very subdued. She wore heels to work every day, and rocked some great suits in the 1990s.

1 comment:

  1. A middle-grade book about two eighteen-year-olds ... sounds a bit odd. But I love stories about people trying to find their long-lost family members; there's something very poignant about that. (I can't imagine not knowing where all of my siblings are all of the time—there are 6 of us and we're very close!)