This is a first in a series on needlework fiction focusing primarily on embroidery fiction, but also on quilting, sewing, knitting, crochet, lacemaking and other types of needlework. As I gather more review, I will post them on a separate page for reference. Please feel free to let me know your favorite needlework-oriented novels and authors. The books don't have to be primarily about needlework, but needlework should beprominently featured in the novel.
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Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl's Story by Pegi Deitz Shea is a juvenile novel that follows thirteen-year old Mai from the Thai refugee camp where she lived for ten years, to Providence, Rhode Island where she and her grandmother join her uncle and cousins who emigrated five years earlier. The novel depicts the joy and pitfalls and confusion of the immigrant experience. Mai is excited to leave the refugee camp, but her grandmother is reluctant about starting a new life in a foreign land where the Hmong traditions are difficult to keep intact. The thing that binds Mai and her grandmother in this new life is pa'ndau, traditional Hmong story cloths. Mai and her grandmother made these for sale in the refugee camps and continue to make them in America. Worked in reverse appliqué, cross stitch and surface embroidery techniques, these colorful cloths tell the story of their lives, including the death of Mai's parent's in a Laos bombing, and are used to make traditional clothing. The symbols on the cloth harken good luck and fortune and tie Mai to her past as she makes a new life in Rhode Island. Tangled Threads is a poignant story that will help children and adults better empathize with immigrants in their schools and community. Well worth reading.
Resources about the Hmong embroidery and appliqué featured in this novel.
Dr. George J. Leonard shares the history of the story cloth featured on the cover of the novel.
HmongEmbroidery.org is a comprehensive site that displays many examples of pa'ndau, and provides information on the history and symbolism of the art form.
Here is a YouTube interview with a Laos refugee and embroiderer.