Authors: Gloria Whelan
Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Copyright © 1992 by Gloria Whelan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to
the magazine by children
, for permission to reprint the last two stanzas of “Saigon of Vietnam” by Linh To Sinh My Bui.
Copyright © 1990 by the Children’s Art Foundation.
Yearling and the jumping horse design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
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Reprinted by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
I would like to express my gratitude to Tuong Dinh Nguyen, Linh Moran, Vo Van Huyen, Le Thi Dung, and Rose and Allen Pecar.
I would also like to acknowledge the help I received from the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, with special thanks to Diana Bui.
It was dark and cold when the tiny boat
began to float away from the land of Vietnam.
I didn’t want to leave,
but for my future,
My heart was full of pain when I left.
Oh! My poor country! Whenever can I see you again?
My love country.
—from “Saigon of Vietnam”
by Linh To Sinh My Bui, 13,
Great Falls, Virginia
I lay in bed listening to the whispering that went on across the room. My world had become a world of whispers, for the frightening things that were happening to us could be spoken of only in whispers. Tonight I could hear the deep, worried whisper of my father, Tran Vinh; the quick, chirping whisper of my mother, Thu; and the grandmother’s bossy, rough whisper, which often slid into a whine.
A warm moist breeze found its way through our thatched roof. I rolled over to the edge of the bed, pulling away from the damp touch of my sister, Anh. Anh, who was nine, four years younger than I am, wouldn’t go to sleep without holding on to me. My grandmother said it was because Anh was born on
, the Day of the Mouse. But I knew it was because of Anh’s nightmares. The nightmares had started when police had come to our house and threatened to take my grandmother away.
“The old woman is full of dangerous superstition. She pretends to be a healer. She tells fortunes and
practices the old religion,” they said. “Such things must be wiped out. If we hear she is up to her old tricks, we will take her away and you will never see her again.”
When the police left, Anh would not stop crying until my mother promised her, “We will not let anything happen to your grandmother.” Since I am older than Anh I knew my mother was making a promise she couldn’t keep, for before Anh was born, when I was very young, officers had taken away my father for many months and my mother had not been able to stop them.