Read Your Way Around the World invites you to Vietnam.
Duong Thu Huong is an award winning Vietnamese writer and a political dissident. Her political ideology was formed during the Vietnam War and her criticism of the communist government has lead to her being imprisoned, censored and finally forced to live abroad to be able to write about her homeland and her people.
In Zenith (M) " Duong Thu Huong has won acclaim for her exceptional lyricism and psychological acumen, as well as for her unflinching portraits of modern Vietnam and its culture and people. In her latest book, she offers a sweeping tale of thwarted love, political intrigue, and treachery that centers on the final months in the life of Ho Chi Minh at an isolated mountain compound where he is imprisoned both physically and emotionally. The Zenith reveals moral truths that continue to reverberate today among those many Americans who still silently live with sadness and regret over the Vietnam War." publisher
Canadian writer and doctor Vincent Lam has written The Headmaster's Wager (M) which was shortlisted for the 2012 Governor General's Literary Award.
"Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Percival Chen English Academy. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables. But when his only son gets into trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send Dai Jai away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see." publisher
Another Canadian writer, Camilla Gibb has written a novel The Beauty of Humanity Movement (M) which is set in Vietnam and focuses on American veterans who have returned to Vietnam on war tours.
"Tu' is a young tour guide working in Hanoi for a company called New Dawn. While he leads tourists through the city, including American vets on "war tours," he starts to wonder what it is they are seeing of Vietnam--and what they miss entirely. Maggie, who is Vietnamese by birth but has lived most her life in the U.S., has returned to her country of origin in search of clues to her dissident father's disappearance during the war. Holding the story together is Old Man Hung, who has lived through decades of political upheaval and has still found a way to feed hope to his community of pondside dwellers." publisher
Vietnamese writer Kien Nguyen leaves the troubled twentieth century and visits 18th century Vietnam in Le Colonial (M).
"In 1773, three men will leave France to embark on a mission of faith and passion in Annam, an exotic land in the Far East. And although they imagine that they will sail into the harbors peacefully and bring hope and meaning into the lives of the faithless, what they discover when they arrive is civil war, warlords on horseback, floods and famine. In a hostile new world, these three men --Francois Gervaise, a handsome painter; Henri Monage, a young runaway; and Pierre de Béhaine, a charismatic priest--find that although they have come to convert the heathens, it is their own hearts and souls that are changed forever. Their dreams of colonial glory dashed, they must reinvent the meaning of their journey." publisher
Not too long ago I read and wrote about Ru (M) by Kim Thuy which tells the story of An Tinh and her early years in Vietnam, her experience as a first generation immigrant in Canada, and her return to Vietnam as an adult. AnTinh's experience of Vietnam was a life of privilege that was disrupted by the war and later to return to be identified as a stranger in her own country.
Continuing with the theme of leaving Vietnam behind:
by Aimee Phan
by Monique Truong
by Dionne Brand