WOW Recommends: Butterfly Yellow

A young girl with short black hair in a white dress stands facing the right, surrounded by yellow butterflies on a dark background. Thanhhà Lại gained many readers with her award-winning novel-in-verse, Inside Out and Back Again. Her newest novel, Butterfly Yellow, aims at an older audience of middle grade and teen readers, but, like her first novel, reaches inward to grab the reader’s heart.

The day after Hằng arrives in Texas from a refugee camp, she goes in search of her younger brother who was mistakenly taken from her arms to a plane during the fall of Saigon six years earlier. She has carried the heavy guilt of his separation ever since. When she finally finds him, her brother wants nothing to do with her, insisting he does not remember Vietnam. Hằng takes a job on a nearby ranch, determined to find a way into her brother’s memories and life. LeeRoy, an aspiring cowboy, becomes entangled in Hằng’s search for redemption and in the gradual revelation of her deep and painful secret. Hằng and LeeRoy serve as narrators of alternating chapters so readers experience their love/hate relationship amidst Hằng stubbornness and LeeRoy’s unrealistic dreams. Lai’s beautiful storytelling, full of warmth and powerful imagery, shine in this novel as does her ability to balance humor and trauma. Hằng’s English dialogue, written in Vietnamese syllables, and interpreted by LeeRoy, reflects her strategies as a language learner. Lai says that this book grew out listening to stories from Vietnamese refugees as a reporter and deciding to write a book about healing rather than horror. This is a book that lingers long in the reader’s memory to offer a deeply touching view of the continuing consequences of war. -Recommended by Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona

Author: Thanhhà Lại
ISBN: 9780062229212
Publisher: HarperCollins
PubDate: September 3, 2019

Each month a committee of Worlds of Words advisors recommends a book published within the last year. Our hope is to spark conversations on our website and on social media about the book that expand global understandings and perceptions. Please join us by leaving a comment. You can also share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag #WOWRecommends on social media.

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