The Mountains Sing is acclaimed Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English. Celebrating the paperback release of this novel, Quế Mai will discuss her book in conversation with Thi Bui, 2018 Caldecott Honor winner and Eisner Award finalist for her illustrated memoir, The Best We Could Do. This event will also include a short presentation and wellness exercise by Asian Health Services’ Specialty Mental Health Division staff.
With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore apart not just her beloved country, but also her family.
Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.
About the Speakers
Born into the Việt Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street seller and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than ten countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with the Hà Nội Writers Association’s Poetry of the Year 2010 Award, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize – the Poetry Competition About 1,000 Years Hà Nội, among others. Quế Mai has an PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, United Kingdom. She divides her time between Indonesia and Việt Nam. For more information, visit www.nguyenphanquemai.com.
Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1978 as part of the “boat people” wave of refugees fleeing Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. Her debut graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do (Abrams ComicArts, 2017) won an American Book Award and been selected as an NEA Big Reads book, a Common Book for UCLA and other colleges and universities, an all-city read by Seattle and San Francisco public libraries, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics. It made over thirty best of 2017 book lists, including Bill Gates’ top five picks. She illustrated the picture book, A Different Pond, written by the poet Bao Phi (Capstone, 2017), for which she won a Caldecott Honor. With her son, Hien, she co-illustrated the children’s book, Chicken of the Sea (McSweeney’s, 2019), written by Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen and his son, Ellison. Her short comics can be found online at Reveal, The Nib, PEN America, and BOOM California. She is currently researching and drawing a work of graphic nonfiction about immigrant detention and deportation, to be published by One World, Random House. For more information, visit https://www.thibui.com/
This event is presented in partnership by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Algonquin Books, the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith (Twitter: @TLSBooksmith, IG: @transnational.booksmith), Asian Health Services Specialty Mental Health Division, the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN) and the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA).
This event is FREE and donations are greatly appreciated. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.