Quiet As They Come, Angie Chau, Ig Publishing, 2010, 195 pp
Angie Chau is a Vietnamese woman who emigrated to the United States as a child. Her collection of stories is based on that experience and on her coming of age in a Vietnamese immigrant community in San Francisco.
The writing is incredibly good. I have read a number of books, fiction and memoir, about Asian immigrants growing up in America and this one is right up there with those by such writers as Amy Tan and Lisa See. Ms Chau captures the confusion, the sense of being lost between two cultures and the effects of this on both the parents and the children.
The most heartbreaking story was about Kim, who renamed her two children Sophia and Marcel, after her favorite movie stars. She is waiting and longing for the husband she had to leave behind because he had been captured by the Vietcong and imprisoned. When he is finally released and makes it to San Francisco, he is so traumatized that he finds it impossible to reunite with his family.
In another story, a mother treats her sick daughter with traditional remedies, one of which leaves bruises on the girl's spine. Soon after, a worker from Social Services arrives at their home to make sure the girl is not being abused. The poor mother, who did in fact cure her daughter, is deeply embarrassed by the social worker.
I loved this book and will from now on look at any Vietnamese person I meet with increased respect.
(Quiet As They Come is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)