Talking Location With author Phyllida Shrimpton – CORNWALL
Land of Smiles
Location(s): Thailand, California, Oakland
Set in the 1970s, in the era of the Vietnam War and its volatile aftermath, Land of Smiles tells the story of a young Southeast Asian man’s journey from a refugee camp in Thailand to a housing project in Oakland, California.The novel opens with a Laotian boy, Boontakone, who swims across the Mekong River, leaving his old life behind, and losing his mother and sister in the process. In a refugee camp in Thailand, Boontakone struggles to decipher the secret codes of his new life. In this passage, T. C. Huo offers a glimpse into a world as highly ordered and dependent on proper observance of social customs and manners as any created by Jane Austen. Eventually Boontakone and his father make their way to America, where the young man will have to sort out impressions as dazzling and puzzling as the American high school, “Superman,” and Saturday Night Fever. Balancing a moving account of dislocation and loss with gentle comedy, Land of Smiles is a new classic in the literature of the immigrant experience.
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