Today I get to share with you guys a character interview of Mai from Tangled Threads by Pegi Deitz Shea!
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.
When I speak at schools and libraries, teens always want to know more about Mai. So here are Mai’s answers to some of the questions I get. Read more to find out how you can ask your own question.
Q. A lot of reality shows create problems and drama to entertain viewers. But you have had a sad life with your parents dying in a war. Do you watch these shows?
Mai: I like the reality shows that make competitors use cleverness and strength, like “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” and “Man vs. Wild.” But I can’t stand the shows that have people fighting all the time and back-stabbing each other. I also don’t like violent movies or video games. The noises give me headaches and the images make me want to puke. If kids had ever lived through a war, ever really seen their family and friends die, or just had their family taken away, they wouldn’t get such a big kick out of killing.
Q. Do you like sports?
Mai: I love volleyball! It was one of only things we could do for fun in the refugee camps. I play in a summer league. I’m a “setter” because I’m not very tall. I wanted to play on the high school team with Yer and Kachea, but I had to get a job to help my aunt and uncle.
Q. Who’s on your play-lists?
Mai: Hmong rock—rock in general, but I don’t like scream-o. Bruno Mars is adorable, Beyonce (even tho she’s getting old). I learn a lot of dance moves from her old videos, Pink—because she’s strong and not afraid to speak the truth. I like good lyrics. Adele—I hope her next album is happier! Lady Gaga is really talented. It would be so cool to sew costumes for her (except not meat ones).
Q. Other than art class, which class do you like best?
Mai: History. I know it’s a lot of wars and dates, but my teacher really brings the people alive. It’s fun learning about inventions, people creating things.
Q. How do you cope in high school? There are so many cliques!
Mai: Instead of trying to “be” someone, “do” something that makes you happy. I made lots of friends in art class. Start a club if there isn’t one you’d like to join. Don’t forget your old friends. In fact, they can help you meet new people. I go to Yer and Kachea’s volleyball games and now I’m friends with their team mates. Do nice things for other people, even ones you don’t know. Like offering your class notes to someone who was absent. If you’re having no luck in school, do stuff outside of school with other teens, like dance or youth group at church. Volunteer or get a job.
Q. Why do you like needle work? It’s so old-fashioned.
A. Lots of arts and crafts are old-fashioned. The cave women made clothes! And look at all the fashion magazines and tv shows today. So I use old-fashioned materials—threads—but I create something new every time I sew. Some people create with words. Me—I like cloth. So find a material and make something that could only come from your ideas.
That reminds me! My creator, Pegi Deitz Shea, would love to hear from you if you want to ask Mai any more questions or ask my creator anything about writing. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for tuning in!
Thanks for sharing such an awesome interview with us Pegi Deitz Shea! If you want to learn more about Mai and Tangled Threads be sure to enter for a chance to win a signed copy here.
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