Books·Canadian

Em

A novel by Kim Thúy.

Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman

In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon. The boy is Louis, the child of a long-gone American soldier. Louis calls the baby em Hồng, em meaning "little sister," or "beloved." Even though her cradle is nothing more than a cardboard box, em Hồng's life holds every possibility.

Through the linked destinies of a family of characters, the novel takes its inspiration from historical events, including Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975, and the remarkable growth of the nail salon industry, dominated by Vietnamese expatriates all over the world. From the rubber plantations of Indochina to the massacre at My Lai, Kim Thúy sifts through the layers of pain and trauma in stories we thought we knew, revealing transcendent moments of grace, and the invincibility of the human spirit. (From Random House Canada)

Em was on the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist

Born in Saigon, Kim Thúy left Vietnam in a boat at 10 years old and settled with her family in Quebec. Her other novels include ViMan. and RuRu won the Governor General's Literary Award for French-language fiction and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2002. It also won Canada Reads 2015, when it was championed by Cameron Bailey. Her books have been translated into 29 languages and are available in 40 countries and territories.

Sheila Fischman is the translator of over 150 works of Quebec contemporary novels from French to English. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec.

Why Kim Thúy wrote Em

"Em is about love. I hope readers will feel the same way after reading it. It's also about beauty. Each time I write, I try to only share beauty. Most of the time, beauty can be best seen when we put it in context — particularly in light of atrocity or horror. 

is about love. I hope readers will feel the same way after reading it.- Kim Thúy

"That's where beauty is more important. That's where beauty will reveal itself even more. In this case, the context is Operation Babylift, which was about evacuating thousands of orphans from Saigon in April 1975. But I also have to explain where these babies came from. I had to go back to the American War and also the French IndoChina period. 

"But then I wanted to talk about nail polish! I had to take these kids into that industry as well. So it's about the journey of the Vietnamese during these years."

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with Kim Thúy

Author Kim Thúy on Canadian pride

6 years ago
2:34
Canada Reads-winning author Kim Thuy's speaks about the contrast between Canada and Vietnam. 2:34

Other books by Kim Thúy

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