Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A American Boy from Vietnam: Escape from Saigon

by Andrea Warren

This book was inspired by the author's experience of adopting from Vietnam. Because her daughter was just an infant and didn't remember her short time in Vietnam, Ms. Warren conducted interviews with Matt Steiner, who was ten when he was flown out of Saigon as the North Vietnamese soldiers surrounded the city.

Matt's mother was Vietnamese and his father was American. His father left when American troops were pulled out and never returned. His mother fell into deep depression and eventually committed suicide, leaving Matt with his grandmother. She tried to take care of him, but could not afford to keep him properly fed. She took him to an orphanage and gave up her rights so he could be free for adoption. Eventually, Matt was selected for an adoption by an American family. There are lots of photographs of Matt (a few in Vietnam) and many pictures of the orphanage and Vietnam to give a glimpse into the country.

There's one reference to a Catholic priest who was illegally attempting to gather orphans in exchange for cash. I think this is less an anti-Catholic reference, as there are nuns and other Catholic organizations mentioned favorably, as an example of the chaos that reigned in Saigon as the war closed in.

Though an uplifting story, Matt's experiences reveal the abandonment some international adoptees feel as well as ambivalence about losing their culture. There's an afterward in the back that shares more about those experiences as well.

For those who are interested, there's a substantial list for further reading (for young readers, middle readers, and mature readers) and even a few movies.

This book would be a pretty easy read for an eighth grader as far as difficulty, so it would be a good choice for further reading for Level 4 (Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™) for a student who still struggled a little with reading. I am tentatively planning to assign it during our Asia study and will ask First Son to read it over two or three weeks to coincide with Vietnam.

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