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On 1 July 1972 during the Easter Offensive two Vietnamese journalists, Ngy Thanh and Đoàn Kế Tường, used a heavily damaged railway bridge to cross the Bến Đá River, which bisects Highway One between the cities of Quảng Trị and Huế. What met them on the other side was a scene of carnage: many hundreds of civilian and military personnel corpses littered the highway, the result of an attack two months earlier.
Her research focuses not just on the events of the massacre, but on the civilian efforts—spearheaded by the independent newspaper Sóng Thần (which my mother and father were publishers and editors of)—to identify and bury the bodies of the dead in the aftermath of the event.
“People here,” he says, “still think Vietnam is a jungle—brown savages, an exotic Asian whore who you can’t possess, but still satisfies all your sexual demands. It’s burnt into the American imagination. You can’t change that.” In a quietly controlled book, it’s an unexpected moment of rage, where the author and her character lay bare the type of narrative she’s working against.
Dear Sweet Baby, / I thought of you last night. / Your memory hit me with / A pierce and an ache, / And I sobbed longingly for you. Deep belly crying, / The kind that howls. / Three years ago today / I found out that after 13 weeks of carrying you, / I had lost you.
who / deserves a perfect night, you in reverse / i will see us aged in reverse in Calauit Island / safari park the mid-resort of life upon life / quietly underneath
The idea of motion does help me understand the sense of urgency I feel towards many things and the rhythm I’ve built around dancing and writing over the past few years.
The first time I read On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, I got off the bus three stops early and cried outside of a 7-Eleven. So, when Ocean Vuong came to Seattle for a collaborative event hosted by the Seattle Public Library and The Elliott Bay Book Company, I knew I had to attend.
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.