Today we’re excited to reveal the cover for young adult novel My Father, The Panda Killer by Jamie Jo Hoang! The cover was illustrated by Marcos Chin. The book will be released on August 29, 2023 by Crown Books for Young Readers. Preorder it here, here, or here. Keep scrolling for a letter from the author!
I’ve spent so much of my life despising anything Vietnamese: the people, the culture, the lessons. But now I’m about to try to convince Paul that he should do the exact opposite of what I’ve done and embrace our history.
San Jose, 1999. Jane knows her dad can’t control his anger. She has to explain it to her younger brother. But she doesn’t quite understand it herself.
Đà Nẵng, 1975. Phúc (pronounced /fo͞ok/, rhymes with duke) is eleven the first time he embarks on a harrowing and traumatic escape from Vietnam. His perilous journey across the unrelenting Pacific Ocean is fraught with Thai pirates, starvation, and the unfortunate murder of a panda. Phúc is Jane’s dad.
My Father, the Panda Killer is a story about my dad. But my dad has not read this book. In fact, he doesn’t know that it exists. And actually, I’m not exactly sure how I will tell him.
My relationship with my father is complicated. I am the daughter who told my dad that I would never marry a Vietnamese man. I am the daughter who refused to wear the traditional áo dài to celebrate Tết (Vietnamese New Year’s) each year. I am the daughter my father has told, time and time again, to look in the mirror. “You need to know who you are,” he’d say. For years I looked, but I couldn’t see. Then I started writing this book.
I had no idea what would emerge when I began. I didn’t know how honest I would find myself being. But as the words spilled out on the page, I felt an emotional release as I filled Jane’s world with the information I never got as a teenager. Shame poured through my fingertips as I admitted to prejudices, my own flares of anger, and my resentments. And then I found Phúc. Looking for my father’s humanity has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Imagining him as a child of war, experiencing things no adolescent should ever have to endure, reshaped my anger into empathy.
My Father, The Panda Killer is inspired by my personal relationships, but this complex dynamic between parents and children is not unique. From Afghans fleeing the Taliban to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, perilous journeys out of conflict are ubiquitous. They’re also a catalyst for intergenerational trauma. I know because I am a legacy of one such experience. I wrote this story to heal my own wounds, but I hope this book will help guide, bond, and heal the fractured relationships between all parents and children who long to understand, accept, and embrace one another.
Thank you so much for reading. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to call my dad.
Jamie Jo Hoang, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, grew up in Orange County, California—not the rich part. She worked for MGM Studios and later as a docuseries producer. Now she writes novels and blogs full-time. When Jamie’s not writing, she’s wandering, pondering, and chasing experiences. Her self-published first novel, Blue Sun, Yellow Sky, was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year.