Across the Mekong River––Hmong Family Finds a New Life in America

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In her new novel, Across the Mekong River, author Elaine Russell paints a true life picture of the Hmong immigrant experience, exploring family love, sacrifice, and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome tragic circumstances.

In her new novel, Across the Mekong River, author Elaine Russell traces the dangerous journey of a Hmong family who escapes war and persecution in Laos to start a new life in America. Thousands of Hmong and other Laotians fled their homeland after the Communist takeover in 1975.

Russell first became inspired to write the story after meeting Hmong children in her son’s school in Sacramento and reading Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

“As I started formulating ideas for a story, I met a Hmong woman at my husband’s office. She told me her story of survival and her family’s struggle with life in the U.S. She introduced me to her friends who shared their experiences as well.”

Russell started down a fascinating path of discovery, learning about Hmong culture and traditions and the Lao civil war. She visited Laos in 2006 to do further research and, soon after, joined the U.S. based non-profit, Legacies of War, which advocates for the clearance of unexploded bombs from the war. Russell wrote several journal articles on the war and its aftermath and presented at an international conference in Sweden.

“Many of the struggles the family in my book faces—poverty, prejudice, and conflicting cultural expectations--are timeless themes that run true for all new immigrants who come the U.S. filled with hope, only to face a harsh reality,” says Russell.

Praised by Kirkus Reviews as "A multifaceted tale of complex characters finding new lives in their new world," Across the Mekong River was a finalist in the Carolina Wren Press 2010 Doris Bakwin Award for adult novels, the Maui Writer's Conference 2003 Rupert Hughes Prose Writing Competition, and the Focus on Writers 2001 Friends of the Sacramento Library Awards.

Elaine Russell will be celebrating the release of Across The Mekong River on Sunday, July 22, 2 pm at The Avid Reader, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818.

For a preview of the book, visit:

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