Introduction to This Stone Soup Writing Activity

“We Are Looking for Freedom” was written by Marigian one-and-a half-years after she arrived in the United States. It is a true story about the recent history of her family. At the time Marigian wrote this story she was still learning English. We have printed it just as she wrote it, so you will find the English is not perfect. But after you read “We Are looking for Freedom,” I think you will agree with me that the style of writing is itself part of the story of Marigian’s life and the terrible problems war caused her family.

Marigian’s story is an example of a work written in a style that tells us something about the main character, and which increases the power of the story. This technique of writing stories in an unusual or imperfect English in order to show the special way the main character sees and thinks about the world is one used by many of the most famous writers.

Project: Adopting a Style

Create a narrator (the person who tells the story) who thinks in and speaks in an unusual English. Think of a character—a child, a recent immigrant to the United States, a person who is sick in bed with a high fever and a bit woozy, or even someone who is a little crazy and talks funny. The fun of this project, and the challenge, is to adopt the language of your character, or to express your own language in a way that will convey meaning to your readers.

Imagine you aren’t you, that you think and speak an English different from your own; or that you are trying to write from the perspective of a different you hidden inside your imagination. Who and what do you see? How do you describe it? And what is the story you have to tell?


We Are Looking for Freedom

By Marigian Muhammed, 12, Fort Collins, Colorado
From the March/April 1986 issue of Stone Soup


I live in Vietnam. I went to school in Saigon. I has one cat. I has four brother, no sister. My mother selling in her own store. My father was working for C.I.A. before 1975. After 1975 my father stop working for C.I.A.

One night at eight o’clock in August 30, 1978, the Viet Cong come and caught my father to put in the jail. Because my father work for C.I.A. At 1979 my dad is dead.

One night my mother put the clothes in the bag. I was ask my mother where are we go? My mom said, “I take your brother to visit your grandma.” I so small didn’t know my brother and my mom escape. I saw her sitting on the table with my aunt, and my mom was crying. I came next to her and she said, “You have to live with your aunt.” I don’t know why.

My mom gone about a month and my aunt tell me, “Your mother escape.”

At one time my cousin, my aunt, and me try to escape, but we can’t because they caught two of my cousin. And they let them out. One day after school, I went to my house. The Viet Cong came and tell me that they have to take my house, tell me to go live at my aunt house. I ask them why I have to live in my aunt house, they tell me that I under eighteen years old, that right now I have to live with my aunt.

At April 7, 1982 I escape with my aunt and her daughter. When we went to Cambodia, we there for week. The half way to the camp my aunt and her daughter go another way, and I go another. We don’t see each other for week. I went to the camp name Nong Samet. I live there for three day and my aunt try got in there. We don’t see each other for ten day. I live with woman. She so nice to me. When I and aunt together in Nong Samet for one week we went to the camp name N.W. 82, which is half in Cambodia and half in Thailand. When we live there they don’t has anything much food. Every day they cook rice for us lunch and dinner. We has to cook our own food to eat with rice. Every day we only has eight liter of the water, every day in the hospital has people sick and almost dead. In our tent it so big we live with two hundred people in there. If the tent dirty the Thailand man call the tent people. They came out, stand there, another Thailand man get a stick to hit the Vietnamese, they don’t care about old people or young people. We live there for a year and we went to Pamatnikhom. Our family live there a week and we went to Philippines, we live in Philippines near the mountain. Every day I went to school there. We live there, we got a lot of water, every day they gave the food to us to cook and eat. We very happy. But I miss my grandparents and aunt.

One day in Bataan, Philippines, has hurricane, some of the big tree was fall down, some of the ceiling was flying, we so scary, just for few minutes, then hurricane was gone.

One day, our name was call to travel to America.

On September 29, 1983 in the morning we drive the bus to Manila. We went to the airplane, we fly all the way to Los Angeles. We stay there for five hours and we fly all the way to Denver. And I see my mother and my brothers. Now we together.

About the Author

In 1973, I was twenty years old, teaching children's art classes at my college, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and came up with the idea that the best way to encourage children to write was to introduce them to the best writing by their peers. Stone Soup grew out of that idea, and I have continued to publish Stone Soup for all these years.
I am also a culinary historian. I write about traditional foodways. My book, "The Magic of Fire," is about hearth cooking. My book, "Bread, a global history," speaks for itself. I am currently writing a bread history for a University Press. I publish articles on gardening and traditional foodways at Mother Earth News. I also publish on wild mushrooms and other food-related subjects.

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