Yesterday, I saw Monique Truong on the Poets-and-Writers cover.
The author of “the Book of Salt” was launching another title : “Bitter in the mouth”.
Meanwhile, I still am awaiting the shipment of “East eats West” by Andrew Lam.
What’s going on here? A Renaissance in publishing by Vietnamese-American authors?
Top of my head, I counted Hung Nguyen, co-author of Software Testing, Vu Pham, Impressive Impressions,
Monique Truong & Andrew Lam Book Signing/Reading at VAALA Center, Santa Ana, Tue 9/21. Q&A moderated by Mariam Lam and Ky-Phong Tran. Books will be available for purchase at the event. Come get the autographs! : )
I admire their tenacity ( I am sure each has to fight within his/her families about this ethnically unpopular career choice).
I look forward to someday reading the equivalent of Marguerite Duras’ L’Amant set in Sa Dec
or Graham Green’s A Quiet American set in Cho Lon.
Vietnam as a setting for historical romance should sell. After all, it dominated the news for more than a decade during its hey day,
and three and a half decades of post-war revisionism.
Vietnamese American writers offer unique perspectives i.e. passionate, feisty and observant (euphemism for bench sitting).
In Monique’s words ” I was forced to be different – when I grew up (in Vietnam), everyone around me looked like me. There, in North Carolina, I was defined by my outward appearance etc….” She went on to Yale and Columbia – flirting with a career in Law, just to settle down as a writer, and a good one (Nam Le took a similar turn).
When American culture looks back to this period, it will recognize what’s been buried among Wall Street post-mortem publications (Too Big to Fail),
or Terrorist war reportage (The Looming Tower). Something has germinated in American soil, migrated en mass from overseas and found its footing just in time for e-release and e- commerce.
If I didn’t know better, I would say, “This gotta to stop. Nobody will buy or read your books”. But then, I sneaked up behind the cover in “surprise me” link on Amazon, and surprised I was. The quality was good, intriguing and en par. In other words, it passed muster and was quite palatable.
Products of American free thinking and free enterprise (wasn’t this what Viet Education Fund and Fulbright scholarship are trying to promote?).
The Alphabet belongs to no one, and everyone.
We pay lip service to diversity and Lady of Liberty.
Now that they came, stayed and published, shouldn’t we celebrate that very thing called Americanism. Ironically, it’s the new comers that seem to discover it anew (5000 newly sworn-in citizens at Fenway Park on Sept 15th). Wait until you see the young filmmakers in action (Norwegian Wood).
This is to show that not all are model minorities i.e. majoring in math and engineering. Can risk takers (see Daring Swim) who risked their lives just to bring up children who play safe? Percentage wise, there will be some “rebels” among the pool. And their delayed version of counter-culture (against their primary cultural norm) fits the American entrepreneurs bill – whether it’s in law or arts. I am sure the publishers did their due diligence before releasing these titles.
Years ago, I browsed Asian-American literature and found only Chinese-American authors. Vietnamese-language magazines were sold along with Chinese cabbage and herbs. I am proud to say that you now have more choices of AM books for research or pleasure reading. And third-generation Vietnamese American will be proud of their heritage when “googling” their ancestors’ pilgrimage in America, still land of the free the last time I checked.