Alum writes children’s book

Vanthay Hong hopes to inspire through ‘Climbing the Coconut’


Used with permission from Vanthay Hong.

Molly Schochet

Can you give a short introduction to who you are?

I was born in Cambodia, moved to the states in 1998 to St. Louis Park. (I) went through the elementary school, went to Cedar Manor, the junior high (and) then the high school, graduating in 2007. I grew up playing soccer in St. Louis Park, and I went to Milwaukee to play soccer for a year and then transferred to Augsburg University and finished my next three years. 

How did you decide to write a children’s book?

Writing a book was definitely not something that I envisioned doing ever. I graduated with a biology degree, was going to go to (medical) school, didn’t go to (medical) school and I actually became a management consultant for Deloitte and PwC. But, I wanted to write a book in today’s world because I have a nephew that’s mixed Cambodian and Nigerian and in today’s world a lot of books that I’ve seen didn’t have too many pictures of kids that look like him. So the motivation and inspiration behind it really is to have something that he can look at and see his image in. 

What in your career led you to writing a book?

After college, myself and seven or eight started a nonprofit called Spam F.C. Scholarship Foundation, which is a soccer based nonprofit that helps students who have been positively impacted by soccer pay for college. Growing up playing soccer it’s a very diverse sport, and a bunch of the kids I grew up playing with were immigrants, black, white, rich kids (and) poor kids. So I think just having that background as a place to express was a great place to grow. I think it really set the foundation for my friends and I to become professional. So starting that nonprofit definitely was a stepping stone to additional things I could do to make an impact in our small community. 

What is the book about?

The book is called “Finding the Coconut.” It’s a very simple book. A kid gets asked to go buy a coconut so his mom can make a dessert for him. Throughout the story he forgets what a coconut looks like and picks up about five or six fruits and then he starts to try to figure out which one the coconut (is). It introduces different fruits related to Cambodia for example a jackfruit, papaya (and) guava.

What do you hope the outcome of writing “Climbing the Coconut” is?

My goal in writing this book is to really drive the change of everybody but at least start small within my family, making my nephews grow up in a new generation make sure he feels included and make sure he feels like he’s represented and seeing something that looks like him.