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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.
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.
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
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.