Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge (fiction) – Vietnamese orphan, California challenges

book cover of Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge published by BloomsburyFor most Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. We rarely remember its 1868 origins as a remembrance of those who have died protecting our nation and our freedoms.

As her summer begins, 12 year old Tracy thinks it’ll be like most summers, but what she and pal Stargazer uncover changes everything she thought she knew about herself and her adoptive family.

The Vietnam War era was chaotic and divisive for countless families on both sides of the Pacific, with many questions and no simple solutions. Perhaps a few answers will shine through for Tracy after all…

Book info: Dogtag Summer / Elizabeth Partridge. Bloomsbury, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Recommendation: During the summer before 8th grade, Tracy starts having flashbacks to her childhood in Vietnam. Her adoptive parents have pictures of her arrival in the USA as a tiny 6 year old in 1975, but before that time, she has only an empty place inside her memories. As she and her friend Stargazer search in her garage, they find an ammo box and Army dogtags.

Now she dreams of her mother being away at DaNang as a laundry worker for the Americans, her uncle gone as a Viet Cong soldier, soldiers from both sides searching her grandmother’s hut in the jungle, families divided by war. How can she ask her adoptive father about the dogtags with another man’s name when he never talks about being in Vietnam?

As a Vietnamese-American, she was shunned by village neighbors and is taunted by California classmates. Sometimes, things are too quiet at her house now, but Stargazer’s easy-going parents accept her and welcome her to their place in the forest. When his peace-loving father sees the dogtags and calls the US soldiers in Vietnam “babykillers,” Tracy knows that she will have to be brave enough to ask her Dad about the past, about the dogtags, about why she came to this family in the US instead of another.

A story from the heart to go with the history book facts, readers will walk and dream with Tracy through that dogtag summer, through the questions and answers to better understanding of a difficult chapter in America’s history. (One of 5,000 books recommended on

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