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My counselor asked me if I’ve had any traumatic experiences lately. This was 12 minutes into our first meeting, after he asked me to rate my happiness, on a scale from one to ten.
Vũ and Dương’s sweeping memoir unveils to the English-language reader a three pronged journey that would otherwise be held in mystery: the work of Vietnamese war correspondents during the Việt Nam War, the experience of South Vietnamese citizens, particularly women, imprisoned in Communist “re-education” camps, and the agonizing captivity of refugees held as hostages by Thai pirates.
And so this is the ultimate loss, the thing that haunts us the most, because it’s the ghost of not being heard through the sound of the gun, through the sound of War, through the voices of others. This is the lesson that carries itself throughout The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born.
Most debut novels are projects of confession, pleas for understanding, manifestations of an author’s attempt to rescue herself. My own debut novel, If I Had Two Lives, was for me the beginning of a wish⎯a harsh whisper after years of silence, a blindfolded dive into the many tunnels of the subconscious to emerge with something resembling a clear thought, a spark of feelings.
He bought a convenience store instead. It belonged to an Indian man who would light incense every morning with his palms pressed firmly together, bowing his head not in front of pictures of his deceased grandparents like we do but in front of the cash register.