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Written by Sonia Chen
Hang is the narrator of her story. During her journey to Moscow to her uncle, she recounts significant (and sometimes sad) events in her childhood and early teenage years. As she is reflecting on the past, she realizes it is the stubborn resolve towards familial duty that has caused her family to be so miserable. She realizes this tradition does not have to be her fate as well. While she is waiting in Russia to leave for Vietnam, she sees a small group of young Japanese students who are happy, laughing, and carefree. She wants to be Japanese, a race that does not bear the same burdens as the Vietnamese. She decides to do things that makes her happy — because her duty to her mother, who would sacrifice her own daughter to help her corrupt brother, is not happiness.
Que is Hang’s mother. She is a street vendor who scrapes by every day. She loses her leg to an accident and has it amputated. She places familial duty extremely high. She is willing to starve the only daughter to feed her brother's skinny sons. She becomes very detached from Hang when Aunt Tam starts giving Hang money for being the first in her family to go to college.
Tam is Hang’s aunt. She has spent her entire adulthood working to build up her wealth and fortune for Hang’s future. She also places emphasis on familial ties, and since Hang is her brother's daughter, she places a lot of expectations on and rewards for Hang.
Chinh is Hang’s uncle, her mother's brother. He was the leader of the peasant uprising in the village before Hang was born. Her late joined a revolutionary government group. He married and lives in a communist compound.
Ton is Hong’s father. He was a schoolteacher who marries Que. He was kind to everyone even though her was somewhat wealthier and better off than most of them. However, the communists did not appreciate him and sought to get rid of him. This is a big problem since Ton is Aunt Tam’s brother and Uncle Chinh is Que’s sister. So, he is stuck in the middle of 2 families fighting over ideals.
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