What is a good quote to describe Mai Thi's situation in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mai Thi is one of the least talkative seventh-graders in Holling's class in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, but that is probably because she does not know very much English. Mai Thi is a Vietnamese refugee brought to the United States by the Catholic Relief Agency. Though she cannot speak much English, she has certainly become "Americanized" as she joins with the others in class to threaten Holling into bringing them cream puffs.

The two most significant things that happen to Mai Thi in this story represent both the best and the worst things that happen to her, and Mrs. Bigio is involved in both of them.

Mrs. Bigio is the head cook at Camillo Junior High, and in November she receives a telegram that her husband was killed fighting in Vietnam. She is full of grief, of course, and in December she does something she immediately regrets. On the last day before Christmas vacation, Mai Thi is going through the cafeteria lunch line as always, and the food has been quite awful since Mrs. Bigio got her news. She says this to the young girl:

"Pick it up and be glad you're getting it. You shouldn't even be here, sitting like a queen in a refugee home while American boys are sitting in swamps on Christmas Day. They're the ones who should be here. Not you."

It is a terrible moment and both Mrs. Bigio and Mai Thi feel horrible; however, the words were spoken and it is hard to forget they were said. Despite how hard it is to hear, this quote perfectly describes Mai Thi's situation in America as a refugee during the war.

In the final chapter of the novel, in June, something just as wonderful as this moment is awful happens between Mrs. Bigio and Mai Thi. Mrs. Bigio arranges for Mai Thi to come live with her, now that she is living alone, if Mai Thi could ever forgive her for the awful things she has said and felt. Mai Thi is thrilled by the offer, and it is a joyous moment sealed by a hug. 

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