I found “The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood” to a be an excellent book to help people learn about cultural diversity. I ran across the book by accident while at a bookstore looking for another title. Author Kien Nguyen chronicles his experiences growing up in Vietnam prior to, during and after the fall of the government of South Vietnam to the communists. The book describes how he was treated as a child of a Vietnamese mother and an American father. I have recommended this book to teachers who are looking for books that can help students walk in the shoes of someone else as they experience difficulties because they are different in some way.
Nguyen relates in graphic detail how terribly he was treated as a child once the government fell. Kien relates how his school teachers and other students were hostile to him because he was a multi-racial child and because his mother had been associated with an American service member. He details the cruelty of some people including members of his extended family, his attempt to flee the country and subsequent experience in a re-education camp before finally being allowed to come to the United States.
Having been to Vietnam many times and having visited Kien’s hometown of Nha Trang as well as being the father of an Amerasian son, this was a very personal book to me. Each time I take my son Vietnam I think of how well he is received there in contrast to the manner in which Kien was treated in the same country. Now that Vietnam is the number 15 trading partner for the United States and our military has increasingly been collaborating with the People’s Army of the Republic of Vietnam, the tone of the government about interaction with Americans has changed considerably. This book helps us to understand just how much the world has changed while helping us remember how vivid the memories of those who have experienced a very different situation can be.
This is an excellent book to help people understand how difficult the circumstances of many children are in other parts of the world.