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Fire Summer begins with the political intrigue of counterrevolution in Vietnam, but it is fundamentally a quest narrative full of detours and discoveries. In the world Lam creates, strong emotions change reality. Due to the love that binds the living and the dead, the dead remain vibrant.
Perhaps, my writing comes from this hope that the stories I pass on will collide with the stories I create for myself and this will be enough of a legacy. A legacy that my family will be proud of. I am always trying to find parallels between me and the silence that plagues my family.
I sympathize with Book Hunter and with the cause of cultural and artistic freedom that Hà Thủy Nguyên and Lê Duy Nam uphold. It seems that enhanced liberties in Vietnam should ultimately mesh well with current government policies for economic integration. After all, if a nation is open to business with other societies, it follows that everyone will also be exposed to different ways of thinking about the humanities, art, and literature.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a book-length letter of a 28-year-old gay Vietnamese American man to his mother. It is a letter she cannot read, but it doesn’t make it less important. Through impressionistic scenes, Little Dog, the novel’s narrator, builds not only a picture of the life he has with his mother but a landscape of love, memory, and ultimately history.
“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.
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.