Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella
By Jewell Reinhart Coburn
Illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien
$15.95, Hardcover, 32 pages
Jouanah’s shocking introduction to her newly transformed mother is the unforeseen crisis point where her young life takes a sudden and decisive turn. Her story takes readers to the remote mountains of Southeast Asia, to the traditional home of the Laotian Hmong. All essential Cinderella elements are here—startling transformation, a kind-hearted but mistreated central character, and an evil stepfamily. However, let us not forget the fairy godmother, a handsome Elder’s son who comes to the rescue, the dainty shoe, and the most important element of all—love!
Rich and brilliantly executed illustrations are rivaled only by the vibrancy of Southeast Asia itself. Gorgeous artwork remains faithful in the depiction of the Hmong lifestyle and the high mountain villages. Readers will make a place in their hearts for this newest and loveliest addition to children’s literature. Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella is sure to shine as one of the most beautiful and moving versions of Cinderella from around the world.
In ancient times, a tribe of people called the Hmong lived in China. During the 19th century, oppressed by the Han Dynasty, many of the Hmong migrated to remote areas of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand in an effort to maintain their cultural identity. Those migrating to Laos lived in the highlands where they farmed, planted rice fields, hunted, and raised chickens and pigs.
During the Vietnam War, the Laotian Hmong were widely recruited by both the Communist Pathet Lao and the United States (U.S.) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Those serving the U.S. effort monitored transportation routes, gathered intelligence information for the CIA, and rescued U.S. pilots who had been shot down by the communists. When the communists took control of Laos in 1975, the Hmong who had served the U.S. were forced to flee Laos or suffer severe punishment or death. Many escaped by crossing the Mekong River so they could live in refugee camps in Thailand. It was in these camps where they remained until resettlement opportunities became available in other countries. Those choosing to settle in the U.S. began arriving as early as 1975.