Home Is East

Home Is East

by Many Ly

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Ever since she was a tiny child, Amy’s father’s friends have told her that her young, pretty mother is going to leave her. Of course Amy knows that could never happen—her parents love each other and her, so how could her mother ever leave? Then, one chilly afternoon, Amy’s mother never shows up to pick her up from school. In that moment, Amy confronts a world that she never wanted to know existed.

Amy and her father are Khmer, or Cambodian. In Florida’s tight-knit Cambodian community, word travels fast—and pity soon becomes suffocating. When Amy and her father escape to California, Amy faces new challenges, including a father that she barely recognizes. But with strength and courage, Amy builds a new network of friends, and comes to understand her father’s deep sadness—and his fierce love for her. Home Is East is a moving and hopeful story of how a father and daughter came apart, and how they found their way back to each other.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307530899
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/12/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Many Ly was born in Cambodia in 1977 and came to the United States in 1981. She grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and attended the University of South Florida, graduating with a teaching degree in 1997. Many and her husband, Danith, now live in Pittsburgh, where she is an area coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. Ly is also the author of Home Is East. Visit her online at http://manyly.com.

Read an Excerpt

Home Is East

By Many Ly

Random House

Many Ly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385732236

Chapter One


As a child I lived with my mother and father in St. Petersburg, Florida, a hot and sticky city that has only two seasons: spring and summer. In the summer months we would get heavy thunderstorms that were both a gift and a curse. For a couple of hours we were cooled by the rain pellets that attacked our roofs, windows, and lawns. But when the storm passed, the heat quickly seeped out of the ground and overtook us. It crawled up our legs, oozed through our clothes, and stuck to our armpits. When the overwhelming weather passed, the bright yellow sun would blind us again. I couldn't stay outside too long, not even after school. The sun was so intense that a spoonful of oil and two eggs would make a late breakfast on the sidewalk in front of our house.

Mom and Dad rented a small one-bedroom house with a red roof and an oak tree in the front yard. Our house sat on the edge of a largely Cambodian neighborhood on the south side of the city. We didn't have many luxuries-no new car and no soft bedsheets-but we were still considered well off by some other families because we had our own dwelling. Our neighbors lived in duplexes or triplexes, or even worse, on top of each other in tiny apartments. The lack of personal space created a familiarity among our people that could be suffocating.

In the evenings and on the weekends we spent most of our time with my parents' friends and their children. They came to our home or we went to theirs, either walking across the street or driving down the block in our maroon Oldsmobile. There were always excuses to have get-togethers: birthday parties, New Year's parties, parties just for the heck of it. No matter what they celebrated, I dreaded them.

When I asked Dad why we were always with his friends, he said that there wasn't anything else to do. I told him that the American kids in my class went to movies and ate at the mall. He refused to try these things because he said Mom didn't like American food. This was true, but I also knew he looked forward to the get-togethers because he enjoyed being around many Cambodians. Dad had known most of them since before I was born and even before he met Mom. When he had first come to the States, he had lived with two American sponsors. They were nice people who gave him a room in their large house, fed him cheese and potatoes, and took him to church. But Dad said life wasn't the same without his people, that if you didn't share the same history, then there couldn't be true understanding. Luckily he was able to find a job in a shrimp factory where a lot of Cambodians worked. Every day they stood side by side snapping off shrimp heads.

One day in May, Mr. Yen invited us over for his younger daughter's birthday party. The ground was hot and the air was muggy, so we drove to his house. They lived two blocks down from us, and their house was the nicest and biggest of all the Cambodians'. Their daughter Janet, who was in my third-grade class, was turning nine. At their party, like at every party, I stayed around my parents for as long as I could before joining the other kids.

That afternoon, the men's conversation followed a familiar and dreadful route. One of Dad's friends asked in Cambodian, "Peera, when's your wife going to leave you?"

Unfailingly, the men, with beer in front of them and cigarettes between their fingers, started laughing at Phou Ret's question, once in a while elbowing each other in the side or nodding at each other, as if to say One of these days. For as long as I could remember, this was the joke about Dad-when his wife was going to leave him. He would politely smile at his friends, but I never found the joke funny.

"It's been ten years. If she were going to leave, she'd be gone by now," Dad said quietly. His response was always calm, never angry. But when he ran his hand down the side of his face, I knew he was a little upset.

Dad had a round face with thick bushy eyebrows that met right above the bridge of his nose. He was a couple of shades darker than Mom, and his skin felt like soft leather-like the wallet that he'd had for many years. And on his left cheek, along his ear, lay a scar that reminded him of the awful years in Cambodia. I would often see him touch it when he was uncomfortable.

Mr. Yen said simply, "It won't last." He was the first Cambodian Dad had met in America, and immediately Dad had been impressed by him because he wore a suit and spoke English like the Americans. That day Mr. Yen shook his head and spoke slowly and thoughtfully in English, as though he had just come to this conclusion about Dad's marriage.

"Look at you," Mr. Chen chimed in. "You're so old. Sooner or later she'll be bored, and she'll want to have fun. She'll find someone younger and smarter than you, and go." From what I understood, they all thought Dad was too serious and proper. He was sixteen years Mom's senior. He didn't smoke, not even when they offered him their cigarettes. He was in his forties now and wore old people's clothes, not the cool pants and shirts the younger men were wearing.

I bit the inside of my left cheek and wished I had the nerve to spit in those men's faces. Mom and Dad loved each other and had me, so wasn't that proof that they would stay together forever?

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Home Is East by Many Ly Excerpted by permission.
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