Based on a fellow teacher’s experiences as a Vietnamese boat person, “Out of the Dragon’s Mouth” is a young adult novel by Joyce Burns Zeiss, a former teacher at Haven Middle School and a longtime Evanston resident.
After the fall of South Vietnam, fourteen-year-old Mai is torn from a life of privilege and forced to flee across the South China Sea in the hold of a fishing trawler. She finds tenuous safety in a refugee camp on an island off the coast of Malaysia, where a greedy relative offers her a place to stay but her hospitality
With her father’s words “You must survive” echoing in her ears, Mai endures the hardships of the camp, which are tempered only by her dreams of being sponsored by her uncle for entry into America. But when an accident forces Mai to leave the safety of her relative, she meets Kien, a half-American boy who might be the only person who can keep her alive until she’s sent to the United States.
Ms. Zeiss’ experiences resettling a Chinese Cambodian refugee family in 1979 and traveling to Africa to work in refugee camps have fueled her interest in the plight of the refugee.
The Book Stall in Winnetka will hold a book launch party for “Out of the Dragon’s
Mouth” on April 25, at 2:30 p.m. The public is invited.