After having left Vietnam because of the Communist take-over, Ha, her three brothers, and her mother arrive at two immigration camps, Guam and then Florida, where, in order for them to leave, they must be sponsored by an American. After a while a man called "Cowboy" comes from Alabama for them on August 7.
- While he is friendly, his wife is not, and she tells them to stay out of sight
- They are then taken to the basement, but mother tells her family there is more room there than on the ship. Mother tells the children, "Until you children master English, you must think, do, wish for nothing else."
- The food is not to their liking. When Cowboy brings them fried chicken to eat, Mother is unable to eat it because she and the others are used to free-roaming chickens that are "tight" in texture, not like bread as is this chicken.
- Because they live in the basement, there are high windows only for them to look out; consequently, they cannot see much and Ha writes that they live in "Clean, quiet, loneliness."
- After a while Cowboy rent a house for them on Princess Ann Road, but the furniture is ugly and the dishes do not match. Ha misses the pretty things they had back in Vietnam.
- When Ha registers at school, she can feel the pity of the woman who writes things down, but she does not want this pity.
- When she meets the class, a heavy boy with pink skin makes fun of her looks.
- Ha tells her brother Vu that the other children pulled her arm hair, threw rocks at her, called her names, and promised to stomp on her chest, calling her Ching Chong
- Her brother relates that someone bothered him, so he fought back by drop-kicking him.
- Ha endures more name-calling and insults, such as asking if she eats dog-meat.
- The family experiences terrible homesickness; mother prays and talks at night to the father about how hard it is to live in America.
- Cowboy thinks they should be baptized in the local Baptist Church, but privately Ha's mother still lights candles to Budda.
- To avoid the insults, Ha eats her lunch hiding in the bathroom at school. Miss Washington arranges for Ha to eat in the empty classroom at lunchtime.
- Pink Boy calls her "pancake face" and insults her with other name-calling
- Children make fun of Buddha, shouting "Boo-da" after her one day.
- The schoolchildren threaten to flatten Ha's face further.
- The family must accept that Father has died in the war.