I just finished Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong, based upon her husband's years in a refugee camp. It is not an easy read. I cried several times, but they were tears of understanding -- I, too, have had an empty belly, been called a dog and told to go home, and even in the face of huge disappointments, stayed optimistic. These characters rang so true for me, I felt as though I could sit and share sticky rice with peppers with them. I laughed near the end when they marvel at the beautiful, white, dimpled flesh of Americans. I remember wanting to be fat like that too (and now I am).
This book will resonate not just with refugees, but with all people who have no home, who have been marginalized by society simply because of the culture they were born in, and who keep faith and hope alive and survive. Our country is so much richer for people like Troy (Laura's husband) and Laura, who take the time and the trouble to tell their stories.
My son is devouring this book right now and ever since I told the kids that I *know* the author via the Blueboards, that this book is based upon her husband's childhood, they are mightily impressed.
I'm also reading the Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor. It includes letters and essays as well and I am in awe of this woman who took a great deal of time to encourage others, even though she was gravely ill and dying from lupus.
Here's a quote from Mystery and Manners: People without hope do not write novels. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by a hope of money, then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won't survive the ordeal.