Goodbye Vietnam by Gloria Whelan

How do we know what is true?

How are people's lives affected by the decisions that their governments make?

The Vinh family was affected by the changes they made to their physical environment in two ways. The family sold all their valuables, left their village and boarded a boat for Hong Kong. The grandmother had the hardest time leaving the tradition and religious connections and the familiar physical aspects because she helped people heal and her ancestors lived her. She felt a deep connection to them. She reluctantly changed her environment and made new friends on the boat and worked with a medical doctor, something the family thought she would never do. On the other hand the children were much more open to the change in environment. Just a few days into the boat trip Mai shared, “I did not want to talk of the village. I was eager to learn from Kim what Ho Chi Minh City was like.”(55) With the change in physical environment children are able to think toward the future and adapt easier. Clearly, humans are affected by these physical changes.

How do I know what is true?

While reading the novel, I wondered if the government was really awful to its citizens by taking away family members and limiting rice supply to people in small towns.

In the book the family decides to escape Vietnam in the middle of the night fearing the military would take their grandmother away from them because she was a fortune teller(3-4). After researching, I found out...

How do I know what is true?

Also the family decided to leave because the government was taking their rice and harvest and not leaving enough for those in the town. Mai, the main character, had an Uncle Tien that disappeared and the people believed he left on a boat for Hong Kong and eventually America. The "police were angry at the escape of Tien and his family. The whole village suffered."(7) Their workload increased and the police took their rice leaving them very little to eat. After researching, I found out...

How do I know it is true?

In the novel, Mai's family meets Kim's mother. She's a medical doctor and they call her, "Bac si" which mean honor is due to her. Mai hadn't met a medical doctor before and then said, " A doctor who was a woman seemed almost unimaginable." (35)

Mai's grandmother who was a healer herself was at first uncomfortable around Kim's mom but they came to rely on each other. I wondered about this religious healing with herbs.

I wonder about how the Vietnamese immigration affected Hong Kong?

After researching, I see that after the Vietnam War in the 70's thousands of Vietnamese immigrated to Hong Kong for about 25 years. Vietnamese feared the Communist government formed after the Vietnam War. Once people escaped to Hong Kong many moved on to Germany, Australia, France and the United States. In the story, Mai's family catches back up with her mother's brother, Tien. He is in Chicago and is helping the family travel to meet them.