Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam, Huynh Quang Nhuong, like a storyteller in the market, spins tales of life in a small montagnard (French for mountaineer) central Vietnamese village, perched on the bank of a swift stream inhabited by man-eating crocodiles, and surrounded by jungle-clad mountains where wild animals roam. The villagers grow rice, sweet potatoes, and corn during the rainy season and hunt in the jungle in the dry season. In the evening, Nhuong’s father, a college graduate, teaches the children for free because the village is too poor to pay him. Nhuong’s mother keeps house, cooks, makes clothes for the family, and doctors them—and the hunting dogs—when they fall ill. His sisters work with their mother and learn women’s work, just as Nhuong follows his father to learn men’s tasks, but he also has time for adventures in the jungle with his cousin. Nhuong cares for the family water buffalo—the giant, gentle “tractors” that pull Asian plows. The whole family turns out to plant and harvest.

The Land I Lost has no connected plot; each chapter relates a story, many of them about threats that the villagers overcome by courage and cunning. The men kill a fierce wild hog by harrying it all night with their hunting dogs, some of which are killed in the battle. A crocodile kidnaps Lam on her wedding night, but she finds refuge in a tree and her husband rescues her the next morning....

(The entire section is 456 words.)