Mai Tren's voice is the last one we hear in the book. Thing is, he isn't even in Mr. Ward's class. So what gives? Well, for starters, he's a new student who's having a whole lot of trouble fitting in:
I'm half Black, half Vietnamese. You try being me for a week, see how well you fit into this world. "Go back where you came from," kids say to me sometimes. And I think, Go where exactly? We left the village my mother grew up in many years ago, right after my father died. He was American, so my mother was able to bring our family to the United States. I have as much right to be here as anyone. But no one hears me. No one cares about that. They can't see past my slanted eyes. Not even the Black kids. Never mind that we're all people of color, that most of us live in single-parent homes, that we catch the same amount of grief from the white world. It's ridiculous. (78.2)
Yeah, being at a new school is hard enough without having potential friends reject you outright because of the way you look. Mai Tren leads us into next year's Open Mike Fridays to close out the story. Mr. Ward plans on keeping up the tradition, so there's a good chance Mai Tren could wind up in one of his classes. And we all know that if he does, he'll be able to turn to poetry as a way to figure out how he fits in and who he is, as well as find some friends who'll fully accept him.
Yup, Mai Tren is like a big ol' symbol of hope. We're thinking good things are going to happen for him next school year.