Dogtag Summer

Gr 6—8—Vague memories haunt Tracy the summer of 1980, at the end of sixth grade. Her home for five years has been with her adoptive American parents in a California coastal town, but recurrent flashbacks of her early life in war-torn Vietnam make her feel like part of herself is missing. Her father, Bob, was a GI in the Vietnam War, but came back "different" and will not speak about his tour of duty. As Tracy and her friend Stargazer search his garage for tools for a building project, they discover an ammunition box containing a soldier's dogtag. Seeing the children tussling over it, Stargazer's staunchly antiwar father calls Bob a "baby killer," and Stargazer erroneously informs Tracy that her biological mother was a prostitute. Yearning to piece together the truth, Tracy questions Bob, and he finally breaks the silence and secrecy to relate a devastating war experience that killed Tracy's biological father, owner of the dogtag. The use of flashbacks deepens understanding of Tracy's situation as a con-lai child who eventually gains the confidence to use her real name, Tuyet. Partridge also succeeds in incorporating solid historical research into a moving story, using the dogtag, symbol of a most unpopular war, as an instrument of catharsis, bringing truth to light and allowing healing and human connection for Tuyet and her adoptive father.—Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
In 1980, memories of her past haunt twelve-year-old Tracy, a Vietnamese orphan adopted by a California couple. A soldier's dogtag turns out to be the key to Tracy's identity and to her father's secretive, sometimes angry behavior. As Tracy struggles to find a sense of belonging, her history is revealed through brief, effective flashbacks. The story reverberates with the aftereffects of war.

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