Joan Rindfuss Hansen has lived in the area that is now part of the Village of Palmetto Bay since 1962.
Her children and grandchildren attended Coral Reef Elementary and she later became assistant principal there for 11 years. Her mother, Lyla Haynes, was chosen Miami-Dade Public School Volunteer of the Year for her love of working with children at the school.
Hansen’s fourth novel, Little Saigon on the Street of Dreams Fulfilled, was published last year by RoseDog Books and is available online and in some bookstores.
Hansen had been a newspaper reporter and advertising copywriter in Chicago before coming to Miami and becoming a teacher.
After retirement she served as supervisor of student teachers at the University of Miami and FIU before beginning her first novel and fulfilling her long-time passion for writing.
Her mother, grandmother and great grandmother were early pioneers in Miami, coming here from Minneapolis in the early 1920s. Their earlier encouragement prompted her to write her first historical novel about Miami which was titled 100 Years in Miami – Betrayal under the Palms. She later wrote a sequel, Miami Revisited – Decade of Deceit, followed by Bitter Tears.
Her latest novel continues her love of historical fiction and relates the journey of the Nyugen family as they try a daring escape from the treacherous North Vietnamese invaders after the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
“They lose each other in this struggle and encounter suffering, heartache and tragedy,” Hansen said. “Separate paths take them in different directions including across the dangerous South China Sea, into the horror of a jungle internment camp and deep into the Mekong Delta.”
Their quest to reunite with each other keeps their dream alive of finding a Little Saigon in America where they will be together at last.
A worldwide traveler, Hansen spent time in Vietnam which inspired the writing of the novel. She spent several months there, traveling throughout the entire country years after the fall of South Vietnam, going from Saigon all the way to Hanoi. And she had a personal contact here in the U.S. that helped as well.
“When I was living in Sacramento, CA, I knew a Vietnamese family,” Hansen said. “They did not want their name given out because they were still afraid of retribution back in their country for their relatives back there. I got a lot of information about their escape after the end of the war. And being in the country, going to the museums that dealt with the war and meeting people over there, gave me an inside look at it. I talked to another man who was at the embassy when the helicopters were flying people out.”
But although she enjoys seeing other places she adds, “No matter where I travel, it’s always good to come home to my house in the Village of Palmetto Bay.”
What is the next writing project she is planning?
“I’ve never written a mystery but I like crime and mystery stories, so I’m thinking about writing a mystery novel.”