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Yesterday, my history professor ordered me to stay after class and then apologized to me. “We are sorry for everything that we did. Vietnam was such a beautiful place with beautiful people.” I shifted awkwardly, unsure if this was the beginning or the end of the conversation.
The displacement felt in these moments is like a gut punch, and I can feel my children feeling it, through my feeling it. They watch me as I read to them. I, too, am a refugee, I tell them. What a thing it is to be removed from a land, to flee from it, to begin again.
an uncle would come in and ask me to write up a paragraph of the latest chef’s specials / so I felt very fortunate to be able to write in our language when he asked / he’d point out my misspellings / and I’d have to reassure myself that they didn’t make me any less of my parents’ child
My favorite Vietnamese word is “thương,” which is actually the very word that I incorporated in 'queer lost love'... “Thương” is like a love that can be romantic but more familial, and connotes a deeper, more genuine connection that’s emanating from the feeler. “Thương” is innocent, pure, raw, wholesome, honest love. But because it’s often used in a familial context, the romantic appeal of its use gets overshadowed and lost.
I was only a child when the war began / Just six years old when they came for a “meeting” / I saw Ma tremble as Ba ran to hide / He squeezed behind the armoire, “Hush, my child” / The space was so narrow, “Don’t say a word” / Something was wrong, I’d never seen him there before
Paul Bonnell reviews Phuong T. Vuong's The House I Inherit. In “What my father gives me,” Vuong writes: my father who gives me / salted lemons / makes offerings / when my silence seems / too prickly for much else / my father so good / at surviving / even his preserved lemons / stay afloat in salt water
My writing, therefore, uses inviting language—language some might call accessible—to make the world legible to subjects like my mother, and to make subjects like my mother legible to the world.
A single woman supplied with a folding chair and multiple voices was able to render an entire audience paralyzed with grief. By the end of the show, it seemed clear that while this began as a tale seeking revenge, it was actually a tale of a daughter seeking to understand, connect, and honor her mother by any means necessary, even if it meant ripping apart scars by uncovering her and her family’s unaddressed trauma.
There is a lot of conversation around inherited trauma. They are so very real. We’ve lived with them and through them. But I wanted to also cradle our inherited strength in our other hands, holding them side by side as a reminder that we are given this very strength that will walk us through the trauma.