DAReadAThon: Results!

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Hello, readers!

I apologize for not posting any updates relating to the last day of the DAReadAThon event! I was feeling rather burned out by all the reading I was trying to accomplish, but here are my results! 72 House Points to Team Ravenclaw!  I didn’t get to read all 7 books, of course, but that just means I’ll have to be more careful with my choices and work harder next time!

If you had missed out my 2 #DAReadAThon book reviews, you can now check out The Weight of Feathers and The Latehomecomer!  As for the books that I didn’t get to, they’ll be included in my later TBR list.  I still intend to eventually read them.

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In the end though, I definitely learned a lot from reading the books, I had dove right in with an opened mind, and I’m glad that I did what I did.  Books can be amazing teachers, they are a world of their own, and they may even have the power to change your life.  Personally, I think readers everywhere should participate in a readathon like this at least once in their life, because it can get one to read outside of their comfort zone and open new doors to new ways of thinking and understandings.

Anyway, thank you to ReadAtMidnight for this wonderful reading event!  Thank you to everyone who has been participating in the DAReadAThon, alongside with me!  Everyone has made this event really fun, and I hope to take part in more readathons in the future!

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Kao Kalia Yang – The Latehomecomer | Understanding My Roots

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Title: The Latehomecomer

Author: Kao Kalia Yang

Author’s Country of Birth: Thailand

Ethnicity: Hmong

Genre: Historical Nonfiction/Memoir

Page Numbers: 277

Publish Year: 2008

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

What Is It About?

After the Vietnam War ended, the Laotian Communist party and their Northern Vietnamese allies made it a mission to exterminate all Hmong supporters of the Americans.  During the war, the United States had opposed the Communist party and sought military support from the Hmong.  As a result, most Hmong men and boys died for the war–and afterwards, when the Americans withdrew from Laos, the Hmong were left behind.  Thousands of Hmong were slaughtered by the Pathet Lao and Northern Vietnamese soldiers.  The remaining survivors fled for the jungles and attempted to cross the Mekong River to Thailand’s refugee camps.  There, they were safe–but their trials and hardships didn’t stop there.

“The Latehomecomer” is a Hmong family memoir, being told from Kao Kalia Yang’s perspective as she tells the story of her family’s journey from the jungles, to her birth in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, the family’s transition to America, and their new life as Americans.  She shares her personal experiences as a young Hmong girl, struggling to re-adjust to a new life in Minnesota, United States as the Yang family faces prejudice, language barriers, economic obstacles, and tears.  For Kalia, starting over from complete scratch was already frustrating.  But when her grandmother, Youa Lee, is relocated to California, Kalia suddenly feels the growing division between her past…and the possible future in America.

Initial Thoughts…

Here I was, diving into another book about the Vietnam War.

Though I am Hmong and I have spent years–reading about the Vietnam War–and realizing, with bitter acceptance, that the Hmong were almost always excluded from history textbooks–I was mentally preparing myself for the gruesome truths before I actually got my hands on this memoir.  Personally, the fact that it is a book written by a Hmong person about the Vietnam War and aftermaths was refreshing, because I felt that not enough Hmong stories were being published for the country to read.

As a first-generation Hmong-American, I feel that it is important of us Hmong to support one another and root for each other’s success than tearing them down.

How to Describe the Overall Book?

To be honest, I felt guilty while reading the book–not only because I felt bad for asking insensitive questions about life before the Vietnam War when I was growing up, I didn’t know about the miserable hardships of my parents and their families when they were fleeing from the Communist soldiers.  I was so angry–I felt ignorant–and I just…couldn’t help but think of my parents as I continued reading.  I also felt deceived by United States history books–because not only were the Hmong invisible from most of them, there was no mention of heart-breaking sacrifices that the Hmong had to make when supporting American soldiers–and I probably wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for Yang.

Overall, “The Latehomecomer” was well-written and easy to understand for those who are not familiar with Hmong culture.  Yang didn’t spend too much time lingering on background information and was able to build up a strong, personal voice through first-person narrative.  Her attention to the dates were crucial to one knowing when the given event took place in the book as well as informing the audience how old she was around that specific time.  Other details I’ve noted included how Yang was able to incorporate flawless time skips that correlated to significant life events and painting vivid imageries.

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What’s My Favorite Part?

The emotional depths of the author’s personal experiences as a refugee and bilingual child was easily relatable and heart wrenching.  I loved how Yang described the difficulties of not only assimilating into American culture but also learning how to read, speak, and write in a different language while growing up–because there are still many people out there, who do not understand how hard this can be on a child alone.  There are still children, who are doing this all around the world–and speaking their native tongue, their first language, at home!  This takes hard work and dedication, extra hours of studying, and also, a major mental toll.

In addition, the way that Yang introduces the reader to how she had felt being divided between Hmong and an American is a common experience that most bilingual children go through, especially in traditional families of non-American origins.  I, for one, went through that several times throughout my life!  Traditional families may clash with American ideas from time to time, leading to large amounts of stress and conflicts between the child and parent(s).  Life events like Yang’s will usually cause the child to reflect heavily on their separate identities–much like staring into the faces of two mirror reflections.

What’s My Least Favorite Part?

There was little room to complain actually, because the book was straight to the point and consistent with its theme.  As a Hmong person, I recognized many of the cultural customs mentioned in “The Latehomecomer” and specific time periods related to the Vietnam War and after.  After finishing the book, one can tell that Yang had taken great care in creating a deep, heart-warming story of survival and family love because of her amazing story-telling skills.

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A handmade pencil case made by my grandmother.  Embroideries were hand-sewn as well.

And So…

Though I have read books about the Vietnam War before, “The Latehomecomer” was certainly different and unique from all the others, because it is written by a Hmong refugee.  The history and background information about the Hmong and their culture proved to be certainly helpful and was written in a concise but easy to understand way for readers to grasp.  The importance of family is echoed throughout the novel and is of common but a most valuable thing in Hmong culture, because during war, one cannot help but hope to come out of it, alive with loved ones.

To be surrounded by those who loves you and who are still here with you is probably taken for granted by many of us.  Yang was able to shift my view in life back to my folks and made me remember how fortunate I was to have grown up in a family with two parents–and parents who survived an attempted genocide and war time.  Sometimes, we can get so caught up in life that we forget about those who had fought with blood and tears for our futures.  Sometimes, we get so lost in the small details that we overlook the bigger picture.

“The Latehomecomer” is definitely a must-read for people who are trying to expand their horizons about minority groups and forgotten histories.  It is created by the tears of a people who were forgotten and invisible to many throughout the world, the strength of survivors who banded together with their families–for life or for death, and written by a woman who wanted to share the story of her people, to make a mark on American literature.  It is a voice from the Secret War.

It is a voice that is no longer silent.

A voice that says, “We’re here.”

DAReadAThon: Day 10 & Receiving Book Giveaway Raffle Prize via Mail!

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Hello, readers!

Today, I opened my book giveaway raffle prize from Three Little Books Company!  I received the package yesterday, but it was given to me when the day had gotten dark, so I couldn’t take any good pictures with the bad lighting in our apartment.  Anyway, I was blown away by how beautiful the book cover is, I’ve read Twitter tweets about “Plastic Wings”–and so, I’m very excited to read it soon!

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Title: Plastic Wings

Author: C.T. Callahan

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

3 Little Books Co | Barnes & Noble

When 7-year-old Evie Weiss discovers a strange boy in the woods, she has no idea that he is a dark angel, one of the humanoid beings that is trying to end the human race and the world around her.  Years later, as humanity strikes a counterattack against the dark angels, Evie remembers the boy and is torn between the loyalty to her race–and the feelings of compassion for the other side.  Can Evie unite two worlds so divided by war and hate?

Also, today is the 10th day of DAReadAthon!  I have moved on and am currently reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Gardens in the Dunes”!  I will have a book review of Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer” tomorrow, so bear with me.

To be honest, I’ve just been taking my time with this readathon.  I did panic at first, because I have selected 7 rather thick books for 15 days–but reading in general is supposed to be fun!  That’s why I started this book blog!

Aside from my book-related activities, what book are you reading now?  I hope that you are enjoying whatever you’re currently reading.  We, book readers, ought to support one another and build each other up!  If you have any recommendations for me, don’t forget to check out my Book Review Policy~

DAReadAThon: Day 05

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Hello, readers!

Today’s the 5th day of ReadAtMidnight‘s DAReadAThon!  I’m more than halfway with Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer”–and it’s been heartbreaking!  Because I am Hmong, this book has caused me to reflect deeply about the journey my parents had to make (They met in America), with their families from Laos to the Thailand refugee camps.  While growing up, I often heard stories of how families were separated while crossing the Mekong River and how they went to school in the camps but I was rarely told about the pain and misery they had endured (probably because my parents didn’t want their children to know)–so, I was often seen, reading books about the Vietnam War, trying to find out what I can.

Anyway, I’m glad that I’m participating in the DAReadAThon!  It’s certainly opened my eyes to new worlds and new, refreshing perspectives.  I’ve been really motivated, reading book after book–learning from new voices!

Do you enjoy taking part in readathons?

DAReadAThon: Day 02

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4 of the 7 books I am striving to read for DAReadAThon!

Hello, readers!

It’s the 2nd day of ReadAtMidnight‘s DAReadAThon, and I’m currently reading Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer”!  I’ve been so excited for the 15 days to start–from January 1st to January 15th–midnight to midnight!  If you’re interested in learning more about my DAReadAThon’s TBR List, head on over and check out my previous post regarding this Harry-Potter themed event, which is hosted by ReadAtMidnight herself.

For Dumbledore’s Army ReadAThon, I am representing the Ravenclaw House!

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Image Credit: ReadAtMidnight
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Image Template: ReadAtMidnight

 I have to say that I’m really motivated to keep reading as much as I could, because just knowing that there are others who are reading alongside with me–in their own homes is nice and comforting–plus we get to rack up House points, depending on how much we read and post online!  It’s fun, it gets me off my lazy butt to read more, and it helps keep me busy on days when I have nothing to do~~

Are you participating in the DAReadAThon?

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What Book Made You Become a Reader?

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“Now, class, do you know what time it is?” She’d ask us.  The teacher had pulled out a chair out to the small carpet area and sat down in front of all the children, who are sitting still–with their legs crossed.  She reached into the large canvas bag next to her chair and out of the bag, she took out a large book–not too thick with pages, but big enough for us to see that it was a brightly-illustrated with a woman, mermaids, fairies, and small magical people.  “It’s time for Read Aloud!”

And…I really did love Read Aloud time.

That day she introduced the class to Virginia Hamilton’s “Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales”–and though I wasn’t sure who was all paying attention or interested in the book–I knew that at least, I was.  I hung onto every word, picturing demons making bargains with me, fairies, and though I don’t remember very much about everything now–I do still remember how that book made me feel.

Curious.

Then, one day, the teacher stopped reading.  She said it was time for her to move onto the next book.  I asked her why, and she simply told me that it was time for her to return the book to the school library–so, I went down to the library to read the rest myself.

Which surprised the librarians there–because I wasn’t “old enough” to read from what they called, The Teacher’s Section.  I wasn’t even allowed to be lingering there.  But the kind older women exchanged smiles at one another, looks even–and told me that “they would do something about that”–got me the SAME book–checked it out for me–and whispered, “Now, just make sure to return it, okay?”

And I did.

Then, the librarians would go over to the Teacher’s Section and check out the books about Greek mythology, Japanese folklores, Chinese myths and legends, and so on forth.  They would give me recommendations upon recommendations–and I would read them all.  And it all started because of “Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales.”

That one book made me become a reader, and it was enough to make a huge difference in my life.

It allowed me to travel outside of the classroom and my home, it took me out to meet interesting & unique characters, and it helped me escape boredom with all kinds of adventures.  If I remember it correctly, each story in the book ended with a lesson for children–and they were all very clever.  I wanted to know about everything, and so, I was encouraged to read more–and finish it, without the teacher.

18 years later, and I still remembered that day.

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J.K. Rowling – The Tales of Beedle the Bard | Perfect for Harry Potter Fans!

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 Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Author: J.K. Rowling

Author’s Country of Birth: England

Genre: Fantasy

Page Numbers: 111 pages

Publish Year: 2008

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Initial Thoughts…

Honestly, I had no idea that “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” existed–though many people have told me in the past that J.K. Rowling did write a book that included “The Tale of The Three Brothers”(which was featured in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”)!  I was completely clueless, because I expected to pick up a huge storybook like the Grimm Brothers or Christian Anderson.  When I finally did, my heart fell flat–and picked itself up again.

That was when I had remembered I was in elementary school when the Harry Potter books were coming out–and my classmate, a bookworm named Ariel–was reading the “gigantic” book.  By herself.  I had never felt so out of place in my life–and I was left, reeling back from the fact that I am now in my twentiesand this book I was holding in my hands were made not just for my generation–but for little generations who are currently going to elementary school, carrying gigantic Harry Potter books.

More than an entire decade had flown by.

What Is It About?

Whether you have read the book or seen the movie, anyone who is familiar with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” would be aware that fairytales or bedtime stories play a significant role in the story plot as Harry and his friends discover that not all things and people are what they claim to be.  They soon find themselves questioning the tales being told to young wizards and witches as truth or simply make-believe.  This causes them to explore the source of one story, “The Tale of The Three Brothers.”

Written by J.K. Rowling, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” is a collection of stories aimed at young wizards and witches, being passed down for generations among the Wizarding world just as the Muggle world has shared tales such as “Cinderella” to their children.  While in Muggle fairytales, magic is the root of problems for Muggle heroes or heroines, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” feature heroes and heroines who perform the magic themselves.  Beedle’s stories, though, help Wizarding parents explain to children that magic can often have consequences if abused.

In addition, throughout the book, readers will come across Dumbledore’s commentary notes about each tale.  If one takes time to read them, the clues and backstories will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Wizarding world and about his relationships with other Harry Potter characters, such as Mr. Lucius Malfoy.  “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” may have been written for children, but it is also a book that can be enjoyed by Harry Potter fans of all ages–as it opens up a whole new world of controversy revolving around the tension between Muggles and Wizarding folks.

How to Describe the Overall Book?

As I read the book, I quickly took note of its unique approach from the Wizarding perspective as Muggles were often depicted as ignorant, naive, and foolish people or those in need and at the mercy of magic.  In a sense, I felt as though we were poking fun at ourselves, our own Humanity, as Man can be so cruel, jealous, and quick to betray his own kind.  Why, if I were to put a Muggle and a Wizard next to each other, the Muggle who possesses no magic of his own–would be so frail and vulnerable next to the Wizard.

If there’s anything else one should pay attention to–it should also be the language.  I just love how J.K. Rowling wrote the book, because it takes the similar tone that the Grimm Brothers and Christian Anderson took–and it transports you into another setting at a different time.  At the same time, it is easy to understand, easy to read, and because of this, you and all of the other age groups–all fans of Harry Potter–are able to be part of this additional Harry Potter world experience.

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What’s My Favorite Part?

Personally, I enjoyed “The Fountain of the Fair Fortune” and “The Tale of The Three Brothers”!  I felt that these two were among the strongest of the collection, because both stories had a variety of characters with contrasting differences, such as age or personality, and they all faced fairly more complex obstacles than the rest of the other stories.  I also thought that the way the collection placed these two stories was strategically well-planned, because one helped set off a strong impression and another helped set a stronger end to the overall book.

What’s My Least Favorite Part?

However, there was one or two stories that didn’t quite fit well in “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”–because I felt that they didn’t quite hold up when compared to the rest of the collection.  To me, they were either weak in character personality or story plot, and because of that, I was either left confused–trying to figure out the lesson of the tale or wondering why…in general.  Though the book was probably meant to be small, I felt that everything was rushed a little.

And So…

In the end, “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” would make a great gift for any Harry Potter fan.  While it isn’t as great as J.K. Rowling’s other works, I was still glad that I took my time to read it, because it helped provide some deeper insight in the tensed relations between the Muggle world and the Wizarding world, along with controversial interpretations of the stories.  Though you don’t necessarily need the book for vital Harry Potter world information, it is still filled with entertaining bits of knowledge related to Dumbledore and the Wizarding folks.

If you’ve read “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”, feel free to comment below with your personal opinion of the book–or if you like the post, please “like” it!