Long before I wrote cookbooks I wrote a children’s book called Trip to Freedom about how my family escaped Vietnam. It was an illustrated short story book for a bilingual education series aimed to teach kids about America’s diversity. Meg, a childhood friend who is now a school administrator, suggested me for the series and the publisher commissioned a Vietnamese American artist Winson Trang to do the illustrations. Trip to Freedom (Nuestro Viaje Hacia La Libertad) was published in 1997. Now and then I’d get a random email from someone about the book but last month, I received a wonderful surprise.
Alisa, a fifth-grade teacher in Iowa, had her class read the book and they had follow-up questions. The students wanted to know how exactly my family got our fake tickets to fly out of Vietnam, what it was like growing up in Vietnam, and how I learned to cook. I emailed my responses and Alisa presented them to the students, who then hand wrote thank you letters along with a few more questions. I was touched by their comments (who gets letters in the mail anymore?!) and the wonder and appreciation that they expressed (my eyes welled up a bit).
I thought of responding but figured that the class may have moved beyond Trip to Freedom. So my solution is to share some of the letters with you and answer a few of their questions. That way, they can get their responses at their leisure. As a class, I suppose they could comment on this post too. It's amazing how today's technologies can allow students to dream and connect far beyond their immediate surroundings.