Kim Thuy (M), was herself a child of war when she came to Montreal from Saigon in 1979. In Ru, we meet An Tinh whose family enjoys a well-to-do existence with servants and chefs and the expectation that life will be comfortable and successful. War disrupted this privileged life and the Nguyen family lost everything but a few precious gems they managed to sew into their clothing. With hundreds of other refugees they boarded rickety and overcrowded boats and landed first in a Malaysian refugee camp before eventually making their way to Canada.
|Photo credit: Benoit Levac|
An Tinh’s mother was strong and determined that her children would succeed in their new country. Hers is a tough love approach. An Tinh’s father had the gift of living in the moment and enjoying the present moment as if is the best time of life yet. Canadians were kind to them, showering them with food and clothing, but never fully explaining to them how to put all this to use and fit in. It is in this environment that An Tinh grows into a young woman who struggles to fit into multiple cultures. An Tinh eventually returns to Hanoi as a woman with a Canadian husband and children and is identified by the Vietnamese as a foreigner, someone who is so changed that she looks visibly different from her former countrymen.
(Please note that Kim Thuy will be reading at Halifax Public Libraries in April. Stay tuned – Ed)
Ru is an autobiographical novel, a personal memoir rather than a political one. The facts of war are not softened, but nor are they sensationalized. There is a lyric or perhaps poetic feel to this novel and brings to mind The Return (M) by Dany Laferriere. Both novels concern a person who returns to their homeland changed by the experiences they have had in a new country, and in both cases in Quebec. Kim Thuy’s writing powerfully evokes a sensory appreciation of what the refugees must have endured on those cramped and dangerous boats.
Ru was awarded a 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Giller.
And for another immigrant perspective try:
Desert (M) by J.M.G. Le Clezio “After being driven from their land by French colonial soldiers in 1909, Nour and his people, “the blue men” must search for a haven out of the desert that will shelter them. Interspersed with the story of Nour is the contemporary story of Lalla, a descendent of the blue men, who lives in Morocco and tries to stay true to the blood of her ancestors while experiencing life as a modern immigrant.” Discover