Winnie Nguyen moves to Saigon in 2010 to teach English, but also to become a more resilient, stronger version of her biracial American self. Early in Violet Kupersmith’s new novel, Build Your House Around My Body, Winnie spots a banyan tree outside an old temple in Saigon and hopes she, too, can become like a banyan, “to encase Old Winnie completely in its cage-like lattice of roots and then let her wither away inside.”

In 1995, twenty years after the formal end of the war, the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam established diplomatic relations. The early 1990s marked a pivotal period for the country’s economy and politics, as well as on the diplomatic front, the improvement in relations among major powers: the normalization of relations with China came in 1991, and the accession to the ASEAN in the same year of the establishment of diplomatic ties with the USA. These political milestones brought forth changes in the economy for they also activated access for entrepreneurs, tourists, journalists and diplomats alike coming to Vietnam for various different purposes.

While Asian protagonists are no longer rare in young adult fiction, some cultures seem more prevalent in the genre than others. Think Jenny Han’s books and the various K-Pop stories, as well as Taiwanese-American stories like Loveboat Taipei and Rent a Boyfriend. In an apparent first, Loan Le’s debut novel, A Pho Love Story, adds to this list with a rom-com featuring Vietnamese-American teens. Although the details of the Vietnamese refugee experience may not be familiar to all teens, the restaurant setting and accompanying food most likely will be.

“The challenges faced by the Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains,” writes Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai in the first chapter of The Mountains Sing. This is no exaggeration: wars, famine and political revolution test her characters, various members of the extended Tran family, to the limit. This engrossing family saga, both Quế Mai’s debut novel and her first book in English, provides a fresh, and ultimately uplifting, perspective on the American-Vietnamese war.