Presented on stage by Kim Thuy at Ryeberg Live Calgary 2014.
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 a 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.
BinhBet,”Vietnamese Boat People” (1978/9 onwards)
The small bulb hanging from a wire attached to a rusty nail spread a feeble, unchanging light. Deep inside the boat there was no distinction between day and night. The constant illumination protected us from the vastness of the sea and the sky all around us. The people sitting on deck told us there was no boundary between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea. No one knew if we were heading for the heavens or plunging into the water’s depths. Heaven and hell embraced in the belly of our boat. Hell displayed our fears: fears of pirates, fear of starvation, fear of poisoning by biscuits soaked in motor oil, fear of running out of water, fear of being unable to stand up, fear of never seeing the faces of our parents, who were sitting in the darkness surrounded by two hundred people.
However, heaven promised a turning point in our lives, a new future, a new history.
My new future took place in a country where there are so many red beauty marks.
We, the Vietnamese, have darker skin with very few red beauty marks.
Since the colour red means luck, every red dot means good fortune.
When we arrived in this country of pure white snow, we found so many red dots on so many people.
This discovery cancels our theory about the lucky red dots.
But my mom said: this theory still stands because all these people who are born in Canada are extremely lucky.
- Kim Thuy