Saigon-born, Montreal-based Kim Thuy transformed her own tale of struggle into Ru, a poetic, autobiographical novel debut.

After a raft of critical acclaim for Thuy's original French version, including a 2010 Governor General's Literary Award, Ru has now been published in English, translated by the celebrated Sheila Fischman.

In short vignettes that flow back and forth between past and present, Ru tells the story of a young woman forced to leave her Saigon home during the Vietnam War. The tale follows her as she lands at a Malaysian refugee camp and continues with her emigration to Quebec — all elements of the author's own life story.

Thuy, a devoted writer who has also worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner, has described the book as both a tribute to the personal heroes she has encountered over her life and homage to the Canadians who welcomed her.

"We talk a lot about difficulties and hardship, but to me, they were just great challenges," Thuy told CBC News. "I feel very lucky that I had the chance to live them."

Thuy talks to CBC about being a Vietnamese refugee arriving in Canada, taking on life's challenges and why her novel has sparked controversy in her homeland.