HMONG ABC

The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee's Story

Paperback, 32 pages, 9.5x9.5, English
by Pegi Deitz Shea
ISBN: 978-1-56397-623-0
A small Hmong girl lives with her grandmother in a Thai refugee camp, where she learns to embroider the pa'ndau, the story cloth that is an important source of income for the refugee women. Mai's story begins as her parents are killed by soldiers while they sleep. She is rescued from the battle by her grandmother, who carries her across the Mekong in a basket. The child adds a hopeful end to her work with a stitched scene of herself and Grandmother flying away from the refugee camp to a land where she plays in the snow, swims in the surf, and sleeps with Grandmother in a fine bed. When at last the pa'ndau is finished, the embroidered images of the child's mother and father whisper that the cloth is not for sale. Shea has based her story on the experiences of refugees at Ban Vinai camp in Thailand. She recounts the horror of her young heroine's life in a detached tone, much like a child whose sanity depends on detachment. Riggio's tropical rain watercolor paintings are bordered with the geometric designs of the clothing, while Mai's work is depicted with photos of the embroidery stitched by You Yang. The two mediums blend with success. A tale of restrained anguish, it ends nevertheless on a note of stubborn optimism.?