Today we shine the spotlight on authors of Vietnamese ancestry. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War (also known as the American War) and the fall of Saigon in 1975 there was a great exodus and many refugees eventually found their way to Canada. By 1982 more than 120,000 had been resettled in Canada (Canadian Red Cross) – considered our largest humanitarian undertaking to that point. Many of these families made their homes in Québec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Their voices and stories are often influenced by a shared experience of warfare, upheaval and the resulting refugee crisis.
Kim Thúy, a Québec writer of Vietnamese origin is known for her short and elegant stories. Her novels deal with the migrant experience and the challenges of adapting to a new culture. Her first novel Ru, won the Governor General’s Award, and this is where we begin our literary journey of books by the Vietnamese diaspora. These books are a sampler of titles from our collections. Enjoy!
The last two books in this gallery The Best We Could Do, and Inside Out & Back Again are written for a younger audience. Both books use poetic writing and artwork to explore the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and the family. Through a series of poems, Thanhha Lai tells the story of a young girl’s life-changing year of 1975 when she leaves Vietnam with her mother and brothers. Here’s one of her nuggets of wisdom:
“Whoever invented English should have learned to spell.”Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again
The struggle to master a foreign language is beautifully described in this quote from The Book of Salt:
“The irony of acquiring a foreign tongue is that I have amassed just enough cheap, serviceable words to fuel my desires and never, never enough lavish, impudent ones to feed them.”Monique Truong, The Book of Salt
We leave the last words to Kim Thúy and we hope you have a chance to dive into one or more of these book suggestions!
“He had stopped time by continuing to enjoy himself, to live until the end with the lightness of a young man.”Kim Thúy, Ru
Thanks for the read! If you enjoyed this article we suggest you take a look at Junelle’s article on Vietnamese Coffee – perfect pairing of a good read with a great coffee!
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