Rice without Rain

Rice without Rain

by Minfong Ho

Hardcover(1st ed)

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Overview

Another dry season — another silent harvest!

The parched yellow fields outside the village where seventeen-year-old Jinda lives are her family's only source of income. How can the rain-starved crop produce enough rice to feed them, much less pay the rent? Perhaps the recently arrived young strangers from the city are right about the need for centuries-old traditions to change. At least when she listens to their talk, she feels the stirrings of hope...

Hesitantly, Jinga grows to trust the outsiders. There is Sri, who brings with her life-saving medicines and knowledge of how to use them. And there is Ned, who talks of taking charge of one's own destiny, and fighting those who would stand in the way. It is almost too late when Jinda realizes that her trust is misplaced — that to Sri and Ned their cause is more important than the lives it would affect. Against a vividly evoked backdrop of rural and urban Thailand, Jinda heroically faces the challenges of holding on to who she is as the world around her revolves in what seems to be never-ending change.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688063559
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/28/1990
Edition description: 1st ed
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.89(d)
Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
Age Range: 13 - 12 Years

About the Author

In Her Own Words...

"I grew up on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. Home was an airy house next to a fishpond and a big garden, with rice fields, where water buffalo wallowed in mudholes, on the other side of the palm trees. I liked the usual things—eating roasted coconuts and fried bananas, chasing catfish in the grass in the rain.

"Although I write in English, my first language was Chinese. Because my parents are from China, they praised me, scolded me, told me long bedtime stories, and recited poetry to me all in Chinese. No wonder, then, that I think of Chinese as the language of my heart. As I grew older, I absorbed Thai from interacting with people in the busy streets and marketplaces and temple fairs of Bangkok. Thai for me is a functional language, and I think of it as the language of my hands. Only much later did I team English from strict teachers in school, and so I think of English as the language of my head.

"I started to write only after I left home, as a way to conjure up Thailand for myself, to combat homesickness white Studying at Cornell University. There was a greenhouse on campus with a single potted banana tree in it. During my first winter, I used to sit near that tree and imagine that I was home. Soon, however, I realized that words could evoke images of home even more effectively than the banana tree, and I began to write down notes about the things I missed. My first book, Sing to the Dawn (1975), grew naturally out of those notes.

"I met my husband, John Dennis, at an antiwar demonstration while we were both students at Cornett. In 1976, six years and more than three hundred letters later, we were married. It took a Catholic church wedding and a Chinese tea ceremony (both in Singapore) and a Buddhist wrist-binding ritual (in a Thai village) to satisfy our families and friends.

"I am lucky that John has learned fluent Thai and some Chinese, and that his work often takes us to Asia. Our three children—Danfung, Mei-Mei, and Chris-have had a chance to live in Thailand, Laos, and Singapore, so they have experienced many of the sounds and sights that I did as a child. Like me, and I hope like many children today, they are growing up comfortable with a blend of several cultures and languages."

In Her Own Words...

"I grew up on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. Home was an airy house next to a fishpond and a big garden, with rice fields, where water buffalo wallowed in mudholes, on the other side of the palm trees. I liked the usual things—eating roasted coconuts and fried bananas, chasing catfish in the grass in the rain.

"Although I write in English, my first language was Chinese. Because my parents are from China, they praised me, scolded me, told me long bedtime stories, and recited poetry to me all in Chinese. No wonder, then, that I think of Chinese as the language of my heart. As I grew older, I absorbed Thai from interacting with people in the busy streets and marketplaces and temple fairs of Bangkok. Thai for me is a functional language, and I think of it as the language of my hands. Only much later did I team English from strict teachers in school, and so I think of English as the language of my head.

"I started to write only after I left home, as a way to conjure up Thailand for myself, to combat homesickness white Studying at Cornell University. There was a greenhouse on campus with a single potted banana tree in it. During my first winter, I used to sit near that tree and imagine that I was home. Soon, however, I realized that words could evoke images of home even more effectively than the banana tree, and I began to write down notes about the things I missed. My first book, Sing to the Dawn (1975), grew naturally out of those notes.

"I met my husband, John Dennis, at an antiwar demonstration while we were both students at Cornett. In 1976, six years and more than three hundred letters later, we were married. It took a Catholic church wedding and a Chinese tea ceremony (both in Singapore) and a Buddhist wrist-binding ritual (in a Thai village) to satisfy our families and friends.

"I am lucky that John has learned fluent Thai and some Chinese, and that his work often takes us to Asia. Our three children—Danfung, Mei-Mei, and Chris-have had a chance to live in Thailand, Laos, and Singapore, so they have experienced many of the sounds and sights that I did as a child. Like me, and I hope like many children today, they are growing up comfortable with a blend of several cultures and languages."

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Heat the color of fire, sky as heavy as mud and, under both, the soil -- hard, dry, unyielding.

It was a silent harvest. Across the valley, yellow rice fields stretched, stooped and dry. The sun glazed the afternoon with a heat so fierce that the distant mountains shimmered in it. The dust in the sky, the cracked earth, the shriveled leaves fluttering on brittle branches -- everything was scorched.

Fanning out in a jagged line across the fields were the harvesters, their sickles flashing in the sun. Nobody spoke. Nobody laughed. Nobody sang. The only noise was wave after wave of sullen hisses as the rice stalks were slashed and flung to the ground.

A single lark flew by, casting a swift shadow on the stubbled fields. From under the brim of her hat, Jinda saw the bird wing its way west. It flew to a tamarind tree at the foot of the mountain, circled it three times, and flew away.

A good sign, Jinda thought. Maybe the harvest won't be so poor after all. She straightened, feeling prickles of pain shoot up her spine, and gazed at the brown fields before her. In all her seventeen years, Jinda had never seen a crop as bad as this one. The heads of grain were so light the rice stalks hardly bent under their weight. Jinda peeled open the husk of one grain: The rice grain inside was no thicker than a fingernail.

Sighing, she went back to work. A trickle of sweat ran down between her breasts and into the well of her navel. Her shirt stuck to her in clammy patches and the sickle handle was damp in her palm. She reached for a sheaf ofrice stalks and slashed through it.

Reach and slash, reach and slash, it was a rhythm she thought she must have been born knowing, so deeply was it ingrained in her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the hem of her sister's sarong, faded gray where once a bright flowered pattern had been. Dao was stooped even lower than the other harvesters and was panting slightly as she strained to keep up with Jinda.

From the edge of the field came the sudden sound of a thin, shrill wail.

"Your baby's crying, Dao," Jinda said.

Her sister ignored her.

"Oi's crying," Jinda repeated. "Can't you hear him?"

"I hear him."

"Maybe he's hungry."

"He's always hungry."

"Why don't you feed him, then?"

"Why don't you mind your own business?" Dao snapped.

"But couldn't you try?" Jinda insisted, as the wailing got louder. "I think you should at least try."

Dao slashed through a sheaf of stalks and flung them to the ground. "When I want your advice, sister," she said, "I will ask for it."

They did not speak again for the rest of the afternoon. The baby cried intermittently, but Jinda did her best to ignore him.

Jinda's thoughts drifted back to the harvest two years ago, before the drought. She and Dao had chatted away gaily then as they cut stalks heavy with grain. They had talked about what they might buy after the harvest -- new sarongs, some ducklings, a bottle of honey. And as they talked, dark, handsome Ghan had sung love songs across the fields to Dao, until her face burned so red she had run down to the river and splashed cold water on it.

Ghan and Dao had been considered a perfect match by the whole village, since their fathers were the two most important men in Maekung. After all, wouldn't the marriage erase the long-standing hostility between Dao's father Inthorn, the village headman, and Ghan's father Mau Chom, the village healer?

So when Dao and Ghan were married, everyone in the village attended the wedding. All that morning each of the hundred or so families of Maekung had taken a turn at tying the sacred thread around the bridal couple's wrists. Then, after the wedding feast of chicken curry and sticky rice, the dancing had begun. Countless couples, young and old, had danced the ramwong until the moon rose high above the palm trees.

There had been so much of everything then. So much food and rice wine, so much music and movement, and best of all, so much laughter.

Yet now, just two bad harvests later, there was never any laughter, nothing but the whisper of sickles against dry stalks in parched fields. Ghan had left to work in the city before his son was born, and Dao -- poor Dao, Jinda thought, as she stole a glance at her sister's grim face -- Dao had become just a shadow of herself.

When twilight finally came, the line of harvesters broke up and the men and women straggled back to the edge of the fields. Most rested against little thatched lean-tos, fanning themselves with their hats, while others ladled water from rusty buckets and drank deeply.

Jinda tucked her sickle into the waist of her sarong and approached her sister.

"Want to go down to the river?" she asked.

"Too tired," Dao said, massaging her back with one hand.

You can stretch out under the banyan tree on the riverbank."

"And the baby?"

"Bring him. He likes the cool water, you like bathing him -- and me, I like watching the two of you together."

Dao smiled then, and Jinda knew their quarrel was over. "All right," Dao said, "I'll go get the baby."

Jinda watched her sister duck into the lean-to where the baby was. As she waited for Dao to emerge, her father walked up to her.

"Tired?" Inthorn asked quietly.

"You are the one who should be tired, Father," Jinda said, smiling. "I saw you help others carry their loads of rice stalks."

"No more than usual. But I guess I'm not as strong as I used to be," Inthorn said, rubbing his shoulder ruefully.

Rice without Rain. Copyright © by Minfong Ho. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Rice without Rain 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rice Without Rain had me grasping corner after corner of each page. This book has a story plot where getting attached to the characters is really likely to happen. It casts all of your twists and turns with outstanding imagery consisting of where the depths of poverty take the characters and what situations they are gotten into. Simply wonderful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never before have I been more drawn to a book. It is so iressistable. She takes a wonderful story and turns it into reallity for anyone who reads it. This will definitly be a book to read over and over again. Thanks Minfong Ho!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book. The massacre part really gets to you. If you have any taste in books i recommend you read this
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Rice Without Rain by Minfong Ho was an amazing story with great descriptions and wonderful story lines. It captures you with its tremendous imagery, and the story takes you away. This story of a teenage Thai girl, growing up in Rural Thailand with her extensive family, is as interesting as a soap opera. Though her life may be simple, a group of students from a nearby university turn her culture upside down. They show the village how amazing politics are, and that leads to much confusion. Along with all this madness, their fields are in drought, and communists are feared in villages nation-wide. An amazing story, that takes you from beginning, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest to read.