House Without Walls
For most people, home is a place with four walls. It's a place to eat, sleep, rest, and live. For a refugee, the concept of home is ever-changing, ever-moving, ever-wavering. And often, it doesn't have any walls at all.
Eleven-year-old Lam escapes from Vietnam with Dee Dee during the Vietnamese Boat People Exodus in 1979, when people from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fled their homelands for safety. For a refugee, the trip is a long and perilous one, filled with dangerous encounters with pirates and greedy sailors, a lack of food and water, and even the
stench of a dead body onboard. When they finally arrive at a refugee camp, Lam befriends Dao, a girl her age who
becomes like a sister-a welcome glimmer of happiness after a terrifying journey.
Readers will feel as close to Lam as the jade pendant she wears around her neck, sticking by her side throughout
her journey as she experiences fear, crushing loss, boredom, and some small moments of joy along the way.
Written in verse, this is a heartfelt story that is sure to build empathy and compassion for refugees around the world
Based on a real-life journey, this fictional account in verse by Russell (Tofu Quilt) details the harrowing 13-month flight of an 11-year-old ethnic Chinese refugee from Vietnam, beginning in May 1979 during the Vietnamese boat people exodus. Lam's mother buys passage for Lam and her two brothers to make their way to their father (who previously escaped the newly Communist country for San Francisco), but when her older brother is arrested en route to the boat, Lam is suddenly in charge of her seven-year-old sibling Dee Dee. In a straightforward voice, she narrates the relentlessly repugnant, often tragic details of the ordeal pirates, lack of potable water, a corpse aboard. What emerges most prominently is the strong bonds that form among the passenger community, tied together not only by their conditions, both at sea and in refugee camps in Malaysia and Indonesia, but by shared anxiety about their future. Kindness and generosity a refugee family takes Lam and Dee Dee under their wing even in the face of selfishness and betrayal, mark Lam's story, as do her resilience and growing maturity. An opening historical note and map provide necessary context, and an epilogue from the actual Lam makes for a reassuring close. Ages 10 14.