At the end of the Vietnam War, refugee camps were set up across the deserts of the United States to house an exodus of over 100,000 Vietnamese immigrants before and immediately after the fall of Saigon. The tale, set in 1975, tells the struggle that these new Americans face. A young boy, Minh Pham who has arrived at Camp Pendleton with his uncle Tai and young sister Anh, constantly wanders the camp searching for his mother who hasn't yet arrived from Vietnam. Through Minh's daily search, we are introduced to a kaleidoscope of characters at the Camp, and through their eyes witness the spirit of immigration, ambition, hope and rebirths; as well as the tragedy of torn families, false expectations and lost identity. A friendship develops between Minh and Addie, an American who volunteers as a cook at the camp. Minh and Addie immediately take a liking to each other, as they share a common interest in drawings and Batman comic books. Without verbally understanding each other, the two have an unusual bond through art, and music, and the common loss of a mother. Another cross-cultural friendship forms when the head of the camp, Sergeant Jim Lance, asks Minh's Uncle Tai, a former translator for the U.S. Army, to be camp manager. As the two work together to make the camp run smoothly by helping the Vietnamese and Americans understand each other, both men deal with their own emotional battle scars left by the war.