Friday, 13 March 2015

Canada Reads- part 3

"Books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues"
"I came into the world during the Tet Offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of machine guns.
I first saw the light of day in Saigon, where firecrackers, fragmented into a thousand shreds, coloured the ground red like the petals of cherry blossoms or like the blood of the two million soldiers deployed and scattered throughout the villages and cities of a Vietnam that had been ripped in two.
I was born in the shadow of skies adorned with fireworks, decorated with garlands of light, shot through with rockets and missiles. The purpose of my birth was to replace lives that had been lost. My life's duty was to prolong that of my mother."

  This is the opening page of "Ru" by Kim Thuy.  The author doesn't call it a novel- just playing with words.  It is autobiographical, but she has combined some stories and taken others apart, so the book is called 'fiction'.
  The title means 'lullaby' in Vietnamese and the author would like readers to experience it with their hearts.  Like a lullaby, the content is lyrical, and doesn't always make sense.  It contains fragments or 'vignettes' of the life of a refugee- experiences and perspectives.  Leaving Vietnam on a boat, living in a refugee camp, then flying to Quebec with the 'boat people'.
  But Kim believes that she was 'lucky'.  Quote: "We were very lucky.  We were in a camp for only four months.  Our boat trip was only four days.  We were fine."
  Since Kim had the chance to return to Vietnam many years later as a lawyer, she does not see the situation in black and white.  In fact, those in Vietnam who have read the book, are not happy because Kim does not strike out against the Communists.  But she believes that difficult experiences can be turned into positives and nothing is black and white.

My opinion:
This could be a very good choice for Canada Reads when the topic is "breaking barriers".  This book puts you in the skin of a migrant, and shows the possibility of looking at situations from different perspectives with empathy for all concerned.
How lovely if this sweet, gentle book would win the contest for the best Canadian book to 'break barriers'.

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