Life in Waiting multigenre Project

Dear Reader:

Hà is a ten year old girl who lives in Saigon, Vietnam. While her father disappeared when she was very young, she has lived a relatively normal life with her mother and her three brothers for most of her life in a small house with a garden. She loves papaya, toasted coconut, and fried dough, and she cannot wait until her papaya tree starts growing more fruit. Hà's life is pretty normal until the night of April 29, 1975. The night the bombs drop and her home, Saigon, is lost forever.

The end of the Vietnam War and the attack on Saigon from the North is a surprise for almost everyone around the world, even journalists who were hired to predict the war's every upcoming event. The song "White Christmas" is being blasted across radios in the country, an agreed upon signal to all Americans (troops and journalists alike) to immediately vacate the country as the communist North's takeover is imminent (Patterson, 2015). Hà's family does not wait long enough to hear this warning; instead, her family is smuggled onto a ship that plans to defect from the country shortly after it leaves the shore. The death of Saigon marks the beginning of a new life for Hà and her family.

Once confident and sure, Hà becomes insecure and depressed as she struggles to understand an unfamiliar culture and fit in with peers who dislike and bully her for her race. Her life is turned “inside out and back again” as she struggles with bullying and wishing that she was back in war-torn Vietnam instead of Alabama. This is something not uncommon in refugee children. Studies suggest that many refugee children develop depression or PTSD or struggle to adapt to their new environments when they feel that their peers are discriminating against them (Fazel et al.,2012, 273). Hà’s emotional struggle is best shown through her desires to move back to Saigon even during a communist takeover and war. Despite seeing graphic pictures and learning about the violence occurring in her country in school, Hà believes that it would be better to endure war in Saigon than bullying in Alabama. The bullying Hà experiences most likely stems from the “foreign” phenomena in which immigrants are almost always labeled as an “out group” and ostracized because of it (Ali, 2011). For example, students refer to her as “pancake face” because her face is shaped differently than others, and students also refer to her as “Boo-Da” because many people in Vietnam practice Buddhism.

Despite her hardships, Hà develops large amounts of her time to learning the language and the culture she has been dropped in to. In the following pages, you will be taken on a journey in which you experience artifacts that could have been from Hà’s life during the year that she left Vietnam and came to the United States. The artifacts explore the theme of change through immigration and depict Hà’s struggle to be happy in a new world. Each artifact is labeled with a date (either month and year or month and day) and separated into different seasons. This is to emphasize how change comes with time, and this also reflects the diary-entry style of the novel.

Thank you,

Katie C

Spring in Vietnam-April-May

Recipe for Papaya Stew (Ingredients are at their highest quality during April & May)


• 1 Papaya Seed

• Fertile soil and some sun

• 1 Papaya

• 1 loving mother

• 3 crazy brothers

• Hundreds of people packed into close quarters

• 1 sponsor family

• 3 cups of resilience

Essential Equipment

• 2 ships (one a defective Vietnamese, and one enlisted American)

• 1 refugee camp

• 1 very large melting pot

Step 1. Place your newly acquired papaya seed in the fertile soil under the sun

Step 2. When the monsoons come or bombs drop, use 1 cup of resilience

Step 3. When the papaya has come to bloom snap its juicy head from the end of the stem and cradle it between your arms

Step 4. Wait until evening or until Uncle Son comes. Gather your papaya, along with 1 loving mother, and 3 crazy brothers. Place them on the 1 Vietnamese ship while slowing stirring in hundreds of people packed into close quarters.

Step 5. Rock the ship slowly back and forth for several nights while sprinkling in 1 cup of resilience

Step 6. Move the contents of the Vietnamese ship (the papaya, 1 loving mother, 3 crazy brothers, and hundreds of people) onto the American ship before quickly pouring the contents out into the 1 refugee camp.

Step 7. Let the contents of the stew settle into the camp before throwing them into the melting pot along with 1 sponsor family. When the contents all start to mix, the stew will begin to look unsettling. To prevent clumping, add 1 cup of resilience.

Step 8. Pour some in a cup and serve it with a side of depression and PTSD.

Summer in-between -August

Fall in Alabama- November

Short Transcript Interview with School Psychiatrist

Winter in Alabama-December


Note Section:

This section will explain the genre choices I made in the previous sections and give them deeper meaning.


The story begins with Ha talking about Vietnam being different than it used to be and an idea of impending doom for the city of Saigon. In this genre, I tried to emphasize the idea that change can happen quickly and unexpectedly. The city of Saigon was taken over in a matter of days, and Tet is the start of the New Year, which the switching from one year to another only requires fractions of a second. To emphasize that this type of quick change was not just something found in fiction, the first article I wrote was based on actual events covered by major news outlets in the 70's during the fall of Saigon.


I chose to write a symbolic recipe of Ha's journey to the U.S. from Vietnam for several reasons. First, food is a very important part of the novel. Throughout the whole novel, Ha goes into great detail about the food she eats, and one thing that it particularly noticeable is that the food changes and becomes more "American" as the story progresses. I tried to model this change brought on by immigration through my recipe. In my recipe, I take a mango (found in Vietnam) and turn it into a stew that is cooking in a melting pot (reference to the U.S.). The mango is especially important to the recipe as it is referenced many times in the story. The fruit represents how Ha has laid down roots in Saigon and is unwilling to leave. Her unwillingness to let go of the mangoes reflects her unwillingness to let go of her old culture.

Sponsor Wanted

One of the most emotional parts of the novel is when Ha and her family are stuck in American refugee camps because they cannot get a sponsor. The family of five is caught in some sort of limbo that makes the characters severely depressed. In the wanted poster, I focused on the idea that the family had been newly converted to Christianity. This was a major concept found in the book because it is essentially what got Ha and her family out of the camps. In the novel, Ha's mother hears a rumor that Christian refugees are more likely to get sponsored than non-Christians, so she converts her family and shortly after they get a sponsor. In the wanted poster I created, I also focused on the idea that the sponsor could be a family or a congregation. During my research, I found that it was fairly common for congregations to sponsor families, so I tried to emphasize that refugees stuck in camps are not picky about their sponsors. They are willing for their sponsors to be anyone and are even willing to give up their religions to get out of the camps.

Therapy Session

I created this short therapy session between Ha and a therapist to emphasize Ha's depression and show that depression is not uncommon in refugee children even though some are young like Ha (who is only 10). The examples of the bullying I used were from the book. I chose those examples and this genre because I think that those things are the best way to show the hardships that change causes on the emotional state. When Ha moved to Alabama, she wasn't just "changing scenery," her whole life was changing into something completely foreign to her. She had to learn a new language and learn a new culture and make brand new friends. All of these things would create an immense amount of stress on a 10 year old like Ha, and I tried to show that with this genre. Lastly, I chose to incorporate two research articles in this section because a lot of the research I found about refugee children centered on psychological well-being, which was the purpose of this genre.

Letter to Santa

I included this genre for several reasons. First, I wanted to show that Ha was slowly changing. By participating in a Christmas tradition, she has slowly started to adapt to a new culture. I also picked this genre because I was trying to express Ha's wants and desires and how change is at the core of these things. For example, Ha wouldn't want for people to stop bullying her or for a mango tree if she still lived in Vietnam. Along with this, the idea that Ha's mother could send and receive letters from the northern part of Vietnam was only possible because of the change Ha's family had undergone and the fall of Saigon. I also included this piece because it allowed me to emphasize Ha's voice and remind my audience that Ha is still a child. While she has been through an immense amount, Ha is still only ten years old, and her story shows that change is everywhere and affects everyone.


Created with images by Unsplash - "sailing boat ocean open water" • seyed mostafa zamani - "Smile" • jill111 - "chair in field floral chair pink" • giani - "tree fall fall colors" • LadyDragonflyCC - >;< - "Onward & Upward (Series)" • DariuszSankowski - "old retro antique" • ArtsyBee - "man newspaper hat" • Republica - "pot steaming hot" • White77 - "family kids happy" • Fillmore Photography - "Glasses" • PublicDomainPictures - "santa claus christmas beard"

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