Monday, 25 January 2016



Sing to the Dawn tells of Dawan, a young village girl who lives in Thailand, wins a scholarship to study in a city school. Her brother, Kwai, places second and is initially jealous, causing a rift between the two previously-close siblings. This hostility is further exacerbated by Dawan's father, who feels that the city is no place for a female. Dawan faces obstacles at every turn, and eventually overcomes these obstacles and proves to herself and to others that she is fully capable of handling the scholarship and the responsibility it entails.


 Sing to the Dawn Cover.jpg

The Author: HO, Minfong 1951
PERSONAL: Born January 7, 1951, in Rangoon, Burma; daughter of Rih-Hwa (an economist) and Lienfung (a chemist and writer; maiden name, Li) Ho; married John Value Dennis, Jr. (a soil scientist), December 20, 1976; children: Danfung (son), MeiMei (daughter), Christopher. Education: Attended Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan, 1968-69; Cornell University, B.A. (honors), 1973, M.F.A., 1980. Religion: Agnostic. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, hiking, growing things.

ADDRESSES: Home--893 Cayuga Heights Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850; fax: 607-272-3335. Agent--Tracey Adams, McIntosh and Otis, Inc., 310 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017. E-mail--minfong@​

CAREER: Writer. Straits Times newspaper, Singapore, journalist, 1974-75; Chiengmai University, Chiengmai, Thailand, lecturer in English, 1975-76; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, English literature teaching assistant, 1978-80; Catholic Relief Services, Thai-Cambodian border, nutritionist and relief worker, 1980; Singapore University, writer-in-residence, 1983. Presenter of various writing workshops in middle schools and high schools in the United States and international schools in Switzerland, Indonesia, Thailand, Poland, and Malaysia, 1990

With Sing to the Dawn, Ho attempted to avoid these pitfalls and created a realistic story of one girl's struggles to get an education. Dawan achieves first place on a government exam for a high school scholarship, an exam in which her younger brother comes in second. But her real fight comes after the test: now she must convince her father and her brother that she--the girl of the family--should be allowed to go to the city and study. She enlists the aid of her timid mother, of a Buddhist monk, and of a cousin who has lived in the city. Support also comes from her grandmother and from a flower girl named Bao. Dawan learns an important lesson along the way--that she must struggle to become free. Finally she convinces her brother to give his blessing and she leaves for school, her father still resistant. "The author's love of her native countryside is evident in her vivid descriptions," commented Cynthia T. Seybolt in a School Library Journal review. Seybolt also noted that Dawan's story "provides a perspective on women's liberation far removed and much more important than breaking into the local Little League." Though many reviewers noted that this first novel was slow in parts because of frequent descriptive passages, a Kirkus Reviews critic maintained that, "underneath the delicate lotus imagery, this small, understated story is infused with passion and determination," such that Dawan confronts her battle for freedom and equality with a "rage so powerful" that it makes "this otherwise modest narrative vibrate." The book was illustrated by Ho's younger brother, Kwoncjan, and proceeds from its sales were used to help set up a nursing scholarship for village girls in Thailand.

Minfong, age 6, with her two brothers at home in Bangkok

Meanwhile, Ho graduated from Cornell and returned to Asia, working as a journalist on the Singapore Straits Times and then as a lecturer at Chiengmai University in Thailand. While in Thailand, she observed firsthand the military coup of October 6, 1976. During these post-college years, Ho worked in "prisons and plywood factories," as she once explained. "I have transplanted rice seedlings and helped a peasant woman give birth; I have attended trade union meetings in stuffy attics and international conferences in plush hotels. There is so much, so much beauty and so much pain in the world around me which I want to write about--because I want to share it." But it would be another decade before she wrote her second book, using much of the material accumulated during her years in Thailand.

Minfong with village friends in Chiengmai, Thailand, 1978

Married in 1976 to a soil scientist she met during her Cornell years, Ho returned to the United States and settled in Ithaca, New York. She finished an M.F.A. in creative writing at Cornell while working as a teaching assistant. She also spent some time in relief work along the Thai-Cambodian border in 1980, gaining experience that would inform a later novel, The Clay Marble.

With husband John Dennis and children Danfung and Meimei

Sing To The Dawn - Minfong Ho

Chapter One:
  • Dawan and Kwai sat on the rickety old bridge above the river
  • Dawan asked Kwai what would he do if he got the scholarship
  • Dawan felt that she would not get the scholarship because she is a girl, instead Kwai might get the scholarship
  • Talked about how unfair it is that the sacks of rice stacked up beneath the house is for the tax collector
  • Their parents thought that it was foolish and wasteful to send girls to school

Chapter Two:
  • Teacher asked students what they saw beneath their house in the morning
  • Had a long discussion with the students about the landlord taking away sacks of rice beneath their houses
  • A student spotted the headmaster heading to their class and the student shouted "he's coming"
  • Teacher and student immediately pretended that they are having Geography lessons until the headmaster went away
  • Teacher and student discussed what they should do if they won the scholarship
  • Teacher announced that Dawan won the scholarship

Chapter Three:
  • Classmates surrounded Dawan as soon as they heard that she won the scholarship
  • Kwai was unhappy and sad that Dawan won the scholarship instead of him
  • Dawan told her family that she got the scholarship and that made her parents angry. Her father was especially angry and said that she took her own brother's chance away from him.
  • Dawan's grandmother however supported her
  • Dawan and her grandmother headed to Noi's house and halfway, Dawan's mother decided to go with Dawan instead of her grandmother

Chapter Four:
  • Noi said that going to the city was useless
  • Army officer made deal with Noi's family in order not to bring Ghan to the army

Chapter Five:
  • Kwai realised that Noi and Ghan do not support Dawan in going to the city
  • Kwai came in second in the examination
  • If Dawan does not go to the city, Kwai gets to go instead of her

Chapter Six:
  • Dawan's father didn't want her to go to the city
  • Kwai asked his father if he had won the scholarship, would he allow him to go to the city
  • Kwai's dad thought that boys going to the city to futher his studies would be better than girls

Chapter Seven:
  • Dawan went to the marketplace alone and met a girl that sells lotus bud and caged sparrows
  • Dawan realised that the girl, Bao, was the sister of her classmate

Chapter Eight:
  • Dawan went to see the old monk
  • Dawan's teacher and the old monk are good friends
  • Old monk does not really see why Dawan should go to the city school

Chapter Nine:
  • Bao allowed Dawan to free a bird for free
  • Bao's brother, Vichai, came to the market stall and hit her because she freed a bird for free
  • Kwai stopped Vichai from hitting Bao
  • After realising that Bao knew about what happened between Dawan and Kwai, Kwai wanted to slap Bao
  • Kwai pushed Dawan away when she tried to stop Kwai, unfortunately she landed on top of a pile of broken bird cages, injuring herself
  • Cousin Noi helped Dawan with her wound

Chapter Ten:
  • Dawan and Kwai were at the river
  • Kwai was thinking about Dawan's words, about him being a bully
  • Dawan passed Kwai her umbrella caringly as it was raining
  • Kwai made a decision

Chapter Eleven:
  • Kwai's father heard from his teacher that he got second in the test and was angry at Kwai for not telling him so
  • Father spoke to both Kwai and Dawan together
  • Father was very reluctant and unconvinced that Dawan should go to the city school
  • After much persuasion from Dawan and Kwai, father finally allowed Dawan to go to the city school

Chapter Twelve:
  • Kwai will miss Dawan once she goes to the city school, no one will be there to watch the sunrise with him

Chapter Thirteen:
  • At first Dawan was unsure if she wanted to leave as she will miss everything in her village
  • After her grandmother talked to Dawan, she decided to go
  • When she was boarding the bus to go to the city, Kwai was nowhere to be seen
  • Although many people in the village sent her off, she was not happy as Kwai was not there
  • During the bus journey, she saw Kwai on the bridge that they usually went to, he was waving at her. Bidding goodbye
The story is about a young Thai girl called Dawan who wins a scholarship to study in a city school. She faces the disapproval of her father who thinks that studying is not for girls and she should give the scholarship to her brother as he is second in the test. Dawan tries many ways to convince her father to let her pursue her studies.

Dawan tries to convince her father that he should give her a chance to study. When she approaches anyone for help, she keeps on failing but she never gives up and continues to do so and succeed in her mission. Even though she failed many times, she manages to convince her father in the end. When the bus arrives, she almost changes her mind because she is going to miss singing to the dawn. After her grandmother convinces her, she decides to go.

The story ends with Dawan sitting on the bus going to the city. When she passes the bridge, she sees her brother, Kwai singing the song that they sing every dawn. Then, she sings together with Kwai until she cannot see Kwai anymore. Next, she looks at the lotus flower her grandmother gives her to convince her to go. As she sees it unfold, she becomes more convinced her grandmother is right, she should go to the city, like the lotus unfolding.

The countryside

Dawan was surrounded by a crowd of curious and chattering classmates after the teacher announced that she won the scholarship. Her brother was standing alone in the doorway.
Dawan found the strength to inform her father about the scholarship. Haltingly she said,"I won the the prize. I can go to the City and study some more now."
Mr Phaspras offered  to  help Ghan and his wife Noi  by lending them one thousand with a forty percent interest. They accept his terms as there was no choice for them.
"  You're only a girl. You won't be able to fight, or to argue loudly, or to lead people in time of crisis. All you are good at is studying - that's how you got the scholarship in the first palace,"  said Kwai rudely to Dawan.
Dinner was tense and a silent meal until her father said Kwai is a boy and more schooling would  be useful and Kwai would be useful to him too. He told Dawan angrily to wait for his permission to continue his study in the city.
Bao, Vichai's sister  shocked to learn that Dawan is schooling and asks Dawan what schooling is all about. She sells lotus buds and caged sparrows every morning  in the marketplace and she tells Dawan that she will be selling lotus buds and caged sparrows for the rest of her life.
"All you youngsters are alike, talking of flying away and being free", the monk said. 
Dawan argues with him as the monk live inside a peaceful monastery, with food and clothes provided and nobody bullies him. He never experiences the pain living in world outside the temple.
Vichai hits Bao  in public because she gives Dawan a sparrow for free. 

Under the shelter of the orange umbrella, Kwai watches her sister limping  home . He had hurt Dawan badaly but Dawan leaves  her umbrella for him to sit under the rain. She limps home, wet and cold and tired. Kwai suddenly makes his decision.
Kwai reaches out impulsively and gently brushed a wisp of damp hair away fro Dawan cheek and tells her that he is sure that he wants Dawan to continue her studies in the City. 

"Hold on to this lotus and watch it unfold during your long bus ride to the City. It is like yourself, this lotus bud, all shut up tight, small and afraid of the outside. But with good water and strong sunlight, it'll unfold, petal by petal by petal. And you will too, Dawan, you will unfold too"
Dawan stuck her head way out of the window to catch a glimpse of the bridge on which she had so often greeted the sun. 

1. Dawan's house
2. The river, the bridge and the narrow path leading to the river
3. The village school
4. Noi's house
5. Bao's flower stall in the market palce
6. The temple
7. The bus
8. The City School

1. Dawan
2. Kwai
3.Dawan's father
4. Dawan,s mother
5. Grandmother
6. Cousin Noi anad Ghan
7. Bao
8. The teacher
9. The head monk
10. Vicahai
11. Mr Phaspras
12. The landlord
13. The villagers
14. The village students
15. Takchit
16. The headmaster of the village school

1. Family love
2. Poverty
3. Gender discrimination
4. Responsibility
5. Sibling rivalry
6. Being fair and just
7. Standing up  for what is right

1. Do not be jealous of our siblings' success
2. Love our family members
3. Be responsible
4. Be helpful
5. Be fair and just
6. Be rational
7. Be hardworking and courageous