By Bich Minh Nguyen
Viking, $26.95, 304 pages
Lee Lien fights often with her overbearing mother. Her mother is critical of Lee’s seemingly aimless ways after receiving her PhD in American Literature. Without a job, Lee is forced to return home to the Chicago suburbs to work with her mother and grandfather in the family restaurant. Lee’s brother Sam gives her a gold brooch that an American reporter left in their grandfather’s Saigon café in 1965. No one knows if the brooch was left intentionally or just lost, but Lee is determined to find out who this mysterious woman was. Lee’s initial research on the possible origins of the pin leads to Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the historic Little House series. This connection sends Lee to San Francisco to search for more potential links to the famous writer.
“Looking forward and looking back, trying to locate the just-right space in between. Always translating, and often getting the words wrong. Trying to figure out the clearest line of narrative, only to find more knots, more clouds.”
This reviewer loved the interesting and unique juxtaposition of the Vietnamese immigrant experience with the American classic Little House on the Prairie. Bich Mihn Nguyen likens the skills and emotional fortitude of modern immigrants to the American pioneers. Pioneer Girl is a fascinating and eye-opening exploration of maintaining your identity while trying to fit into new surroundings.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff