Wednesday, March 29, 2023
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Yu and Me Books
44 Mulberry Street
New York, NY, 10013
No Registration Required!
Kim Thúy’s Em is a short, intense, and poetic novel of displacement and yearning for a group of Vietnamese refugees whose lives interweave through the book. Thúy was born in Saigon in 1968. She left Vietnam when she was ten, part of a wave of a million boat people, and settled in Quebec with her family. Her debut novel, Ru, was an international bestseller and won the Governor General's Award in 2010.
Em tells the story of Emma-Jade and Louis, who are born into the havoc of the Vietnam War. Orphaned, saved and cared for by adults coping with the chaos of Saigon in free-fall, they become children of the Vietnamese diaspora. Em is not a romance in any usual sense of the word, but it is a word whose homonym—aimer, to love—resonates on every page. A portrait of Vietnamese identity emerges that is wholly remarkable, honed in wartime violence that borders on genocide, and then by the ingenuity, sheer grit and intelligence of Vietnamese former refugees who go on to build some of the most powerful small business empires in the world. In many ways, Em is perhaps Kim Thúy's most personal book, the one in which she trusts her readers enough to share with them not only the pervasive love she feels but also the rage and the horror at what she and so many other children of the Vietnam War had to live through.
Through the linked stories of characters connected by birth and destiny, the novel zigzags between the rubber plantations of Indochina; daily life in Saigon during the war as people find ways to survive and help each other; Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War; and today's global nail polish and nail salon industry, largely driven by former Vietnamese refugees. Here are human lives shaped both by unspeakable trauma and also the beautiful sacrifices of those who made sure at least some of these children survived.