Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman
The perfect complement to the exquisitely wrought novels Ru and Mãn, Canada Reads winner Kim Thúy returns with Vi, exploring the lives, loves and struggles of Vietnamese refugees as they reinvent themselves in new lands.
The youngest of four children and the only girl, Vi was given a name that meant "precious, tiny one," destined to be cosseted and protected, the family's little treasure.
Daughter of an enterprising mother and a wealthy, spoiled father who never had to grow up, the Vietnam War destroys the life they've known. Vi, along with her mother and brothers, manages to escape — but her father stays behind, leaving a painful void as the rest of the family must make a new life for themselves in Canada.
While her family puts down roots, life has different plans for Vi. As a young woman, she finds the world opening up to her. Taken under the wing of Hà, a worldly family friend, and her diplomat lover, Vi tests personal boundaries and crosses international ones, letting the winds of life buffet her. From Saigon to Montreal, from Suzhou to Boston to the fall of the Berlin Wall, she is witness to the immensity of the world, the intricate fabric of humanity, the complexity of love, the infinite possibilities before her. Ever the quiet observer, somehow she must find a way to finally take her place in the world. (From Random House Canada)
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From the book
Hà is much younger than my mother. At the beginning of the 1970s in Saigon, she was the perfect modern woman in the American style, with her very short dresses that showed off the slanted, heart-shaped birthmark high up on her left thigh. I remember her irresistible platform shoes in the hallway of our house, which struck me as decadent, or at least gave me a new perspective on the world when I slipped them on. Her false eyelashes thick with mascara transformed her eyes into two spiky-haired rambutans. She was our Twiggy, with her apple-green and turquoise eyeshadow, two colours that clashed with her coppery skin. She was unlike most of the young girls, who avoided the sun in order to set themselves apart from the peasants in the rice fields, who had to roll their pants up to their knees and endure the violent bright light. Hà bared her skin at the swimming pool of the very exclusive Cercle Sportif, where she gave me swimming lessons. She preferred American freedom to the elegance of French culture, which gave her the courage to participate in the first Miss Vietnam competition, even though she was an English teacher.
From Vi by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman ©2018. Published by Vintage Canada.