Today we continue in our celebration of All Things Asian with some book excerpts from Pegi Deitz Shea's new YA novel Stitch In Time!
EXCERPTS FROM STITCH IN TIME, by Pegi Deitz Shea. This new YA novel is a sequel to the award-winning books, Tangled Threads and The Whispering Cloth.
CONTEXT: In my middle grade novel Tangled Threads, Mai Yang, age 13 then, was finally leaving a post-war refugee camp in Thailand. She had developed a crush on another refugee, Yia Lor, a widowed teen father of a little boy. When they arrived in America, they were separated. Yia remarried in Springfield, Ma, while Mai struggled to adapt to life in Providence, RI. In the sequel, Stitch in Time, Mai and Yia meet five years later at a Hmong New Year celebration in Providence. That night, a tragic car crash kills Yia’s wife and injures him and his two boys. Mai helps rescue them and see them through the aftermath. Her crush on Yia becomes love and months after the accident, he falls for Mai. She must choose between going to art school and marrying him.
In this scene, Yia and Mai take his boys (7-year-old Koufing and 2-year-old Teng [Rooster]) to Roger Williams Park in Providence. They had spent very innocent time together before in Springfield, and this is the first time Yia and Mai kiss.
“Down?” Rooster asked when he was all swung out. Yia walked him over to some other little kids playing in a maze of tubes.
We sat on a bench and rested. I felt all heated up, so I tried to take off my hoodie. It kept catching on the knot I’d tied in my blouse. Soon I felt Yia’s hands touch my body. I flinched on instinct. Raum! But Yia tightened his grip on my waist and tugged at the sweatshirt with his other hand. Now it was completely covering my face!
“It’s the hoodie tie,” he laughed. “You didn’t loosen it enough.”
Searching for the string, his cool fingers grazed my neck. His fingertips played across my collarbones and shoulders and I gasped, all shivery. When he slowly lifted the hoodie clear from my face, his lips gathered mine in a velvet grasp. It was the most tender thing I had ever felt.
After a few luxurious seconds, he gently let go. But he didn’t pull his face away. His eyes were closed, and his smile lines flared out to his temples.
“Wow,” I whispered, before I realized how immature that sounded.
But he said, “’Wow’ is right.” He finished removing my pullover and kissed me again, longer. The tips of our tongues peeped out and—
“Dad!” Koufing was calling from across the play ground.
I gulped. Did Koufing see us? What did he think? Did he call to stop it?
Yia cleared his throat. “Yes, Kou?”
“I’m ready to see the animals now. Let’s go.”
The rest of the afternoon, the boys ran from exhibit to exhibit, calling to each other, “Come see!” and “Hey, check this out!” I was so delirious that I had trouble keeping up. A few times, Yia had to trot back and pull me forward. As the little ones were spellbound at the tiger area, Yia pulled me into his arms, cupped his hands around my face and kissed me again. I tingled every place our skin met. …
“Dad!” Koufing again.
I jumped at the sound of his voice. How could I have forgotten where I was and whose arms were around me? I opened my eyes to feel Yia being yanked away.
Koufing insisted, “Come on, Dad! The gorillas are around the corner.”
In camp, Grandma was the one to keep Yia and me apart. Was Koufing the new military police?
CONTEXT: In the following scene, Mai and her high school teachers are touring Rhode Island School of Design. (RISD, which is pronounced Riz-dee) Mai, a Hmong pa’ndau artist, doubts her own talent in textile art.
Intriguing works of art kept stopping us. Every building—every room—was a gallery. Here, a painstaking painting of a system of canals or roads. I read the name plaque for the title: “Red Maple Leaf.” Oh! I peered closer. It was a leaf. A color photograph of garbage floating in a stagnant pond was actually beautiful. Strange. The one that moved me the most was a sculpture of a dolphin made out of fishing line. Was it trapped in the tangles, or was it—here-- free of them?
I recalled our fun in the craft store—how I’d said I’d be a dolphin in the animal world. The answer had popped out of me then. I’d never thought about it before. Now I understood a little. In my world, as I fixed my own ideas, my own stitches to cloth, pa’ndau let me swim in new waters. Dark, deep, yet open and free. And sometimes, like a dolphin, my needle leapt.
This is what Ms. Movar had meant—how my art had to evoke deep thought and emotion. This work in front of me hit me, it stopped me, it made me think and feel. Now, it lived in my brain, and would make me think and feel for years to come.
“Come along,” Ms. Movar said, linking her arm in mine.
She led us by some classrooms. In one, students were watching slides of old art, listening to a professor talk about light. One class was drawing a nude! My whole body flinched and I looked away. I’d heard about this. How could I possibly do that? Oh, what a prude I was. I’d seen almost as much skin on music videos and movies.
We took the stairs to the next floor. “This is my favorite room coming up,” said Ms. Movar.
We’d entered a space where eight huge looms were whacking and clacking back and forth, some of them worked by students, others hooked up to computers. It felt like I was inside an attack—machine guns whacking down villagers, hand-made spears clacking against each other. Suddenly, my knees buckled and my heart tightened.
Ms. Movar and Miss Susan guided me into a quieter room. Still I could barely hear Miss Susan, who was holding her ears too. “Boy, that was loud!”
“Did you notice that the students were wearing earplugs?” Ms. Movar pointed out. “Mai, open your eyes. You’re okay.”
My words sounded far away and jittery in my own ears. “I’ve worked on a loom before. But I’ve never seen so many, heard them, together like that.”
“Well, just sit a spell and look around you,” Ms. Movar told me.
“Ohhhh!” Shelves and shelves and shelves of spools and spools and spools. Most of them the size of a honeydew melon. There were even threads the color of honeydew. At fabric stores, the spools are neatly arranged like lipsticks, in tight boxed displays. Here, threads reached out to you like beckoning fingers, daring you to use them. I had to touch them!
I walked up and down the aisles, sliding my fingers along the spools. There was the blue aisle from midnight blue to robin’s egg. The yellows ranged from cream to buttercup. And the reds! From a child’s cheek to the hottest coal. One whole wall was covered in fancy threads—bright elastics, multicolored ribbon, lacey bands. Each giving my fingertips a new sensation.
Ms. Movar was standing near the door, her folded hands barely covering a wide smile. “I knew you’d love this.”
Soon, classes ended without any bells and students filled the halls. After it cleared, we entered the weaving room. Though silent now, each loom spoke its own language. One a furry wool blanket, another a fine flowered scarf. And one was hooked up to a computer that had a complex pattern on the screen. The loom’s threads matched the pattern exactly. Wow.
“You belong here, Mai,” Miss Susan said.
“I do,” I dared to admit. But does RISD think so?
A HUGE thanks to Pegi Deitz Shea for sharing such awesome excerpts from her book with us! Be sure to check out her website here to find out more about Stitch in Time and her other books.
Now for the GIVEAWAY!
Pegi Deitz Shea is giving away a signed copy of her book Tangled Threads to one lucky blog reader!
For the Hmong people living in overcrowded refugee camps in Thailand, America is a dream: the land of peace and plenty. In 1995, ten years after their arrival at the camp, thirteen-year-old Mai Yang and her grandmother are about to experience that dream. In America, they will be reunited with their only remaining relatives, Mai’s uncle and his family. They will discover the privileges of their new life: medical care, abundant food, and an apartment all their own. But Mai will also feel the pressures of life as a teenager. Her cousins, now known as Heather and Lisa, try to help Mai look less like a refugee, but following them means disobeying Grandma and Uncle. From showers and smoke alarms to shopping, dating, and her family’s new religion, Mai finds life in America complicated and confusing. Ultimately, she will have to reconcile the old ways with the new, and decide for herself the kind of woman she wants to be. This archetypal immigrant story introduces readers to the fascinating Hmong culture and offers a unique outsider’s perspective on our own.
To enter to win this book just fill out the easy peasy Rafflecopter form below! This giveaway is open to those in the US and Canada.
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