The story of Mai Ya Xiong and her family and their journey from the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Madison, Wisconsin, is extraordinary. Yet it is typical of the stories of the 200,000 Hmong people who now live in the United States and who struggle to adjust to American society while maintaining their own culture as a free people.
"Mai Ya's Long Journey" follows Mai Ya Xiong, a young Hmong woman, from her childhood in Thailand's Ban Vinai Refugee Camp to her current home in Wisconsin. Mai Ya's parents fled Laos during the Vietnam War and were refugees in Thailand for several years before reaching the United States. But the story does not end there. Students will read the challenges Mai Ya faces in balancing her Hmong heritage and her adopted American culture as she grows into adulthood.
About the Author
Sheila Cohen has taught English as a Second Language in the Madison Metropolitan School District for twenty years. She is a freelance writer and has served on the Board of Directors of United Refugee Services. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
2005 Winner in the Juvenile Non-fiction Category from the Council for Wisconsin Writers
2005 First in the Children's/Juvenile Non-fiction Category from Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Awards
2005 Honorable Mention in the Multicultural Books Category from Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Awards2006 Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice
"As an ESL teacher, I find Mai Ya's Long Journey to be fascinating reading. From her birth in a refugee camp in Thailand to her graduation from UW-Milwaukee, Mai Ya's life is reminiscent of so many Hmong students I've known. Ms. Cohen's book would be great for teachers who want to lead a study of life in America from an immigrant's perspective. The glossary, discussion questions, and activities and projects provided make Mai Ya's Long Journey an excellent addition to any ESL or mainstream teacher's collection." (Ruthann Lewis, Program Support Teacher, ESL and Bilingual Education Division, Madison Metropolitan School District)
"Mai Ya's story and the convergence of Hmong and U.S. interests during the Vietnam era is relevant to every American and Sheila Cohen deserves praise for bringing it to light in such a detailed and culturally sensitive manner. Touching on everything from traditional Hmong cultural practices to the challenges of growing up in 'two worlds,' Mai Ya's Long Journey is accessible, informative and moving." (John Robinson, Manager of Exhibits and Community Relations
Madison Children's Museum)
"Mai Ya's Long Journey is an inspirational and compelling read, in the finest Hmong traditions of story telling. Mai Ya's experiences as a young girl in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand who suddenly is transplanted half a world away are interwoven with recollections of her family about their life before and after war forced them to leave their home in Laos and Mai Ya's struggles to grow up American while staying true to her Hmong culture. Mai Ya's Long Journey is the story of her life and, at the same time, the story of the incredible challenges that the new Hmong immigrants are facing today as they come to the United States and Wisconsin. Mai Ya's Long Journey guarantees that her experiences and the contributions of the Hmong people to our county and our community will not be forgotten or taken for granted." (Kathleen M. Falk, Dane County Executive)