Elaine Russell graduated with a BA in History at University of California, Davis, and an MA in Economics at California State University Sacramento. She worked as a Resource Economist/Environmental Consultant for 22 years before beginning to write fiction for adults and children. She became inspired and actively involved with the Hmong immigrant community after meeting Hmong children in her son’s school in Sacramento and reading Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Since then, she has visited Laos many times to research her first novel, Across The Mekong River, and as a member of the nonprofit organization Legacies of War. She has extensively written and lectured on the subject of Hmong immigrants. Her novel Across the Mekong River, was a finalist in the Carolina Wren Press 2010 Doris Bakwin Award for adult novels, the Maui Writer’s Conference 2003 Rupert Hughes Prose Writing Competition, and the Focus on Writers 2001 Friends of the Sacramento Library Awards.
Sitting in a California courtroom, seventeen-year-old Nou Lee’s mind reels with what she is about to do. What she must do to survive. As she reflects on the splintered path that led to this moment, time flashes back to 1978 when her Hmong family was forced to flee Laos after the communist takeover to pursue a dangerous journey across the Mekong River, leading them from Thailand to the United States. Through the eyes of each family member, Russell spins each story strand seamlessly into a moving, deeply personal, and yet universal portrait of the immigrant experience of leaving one's homeland to begin anew in a strange and foreign culture.