My first name, Bảo Vi, showed my parents’ determination to “protect the smallest one.” In a literal translation, I am “Tiny precious microscopic.” As is often the case in Vietnam, I did not match the image of my own name.Vi is about what Thúy calls “the invisible strength” of women, especially Vietnamese women. “I didn’t see the invisibility of their power until I went back as an adult, and saw the difference between my cousins and me.” Fleeing from the war Vi left Vietnam for Canada with her mother and siblings. Her mother worked hard to provide for the family without the support of her husband who stayed. As with so many immigrant families the offspring get educated and do well in their new world. Vi travels the world and returns to Vietnam with a different outlook than those who stayed in Vietnam.
Well-written Vi is a gem.
Blinded by the gentle, intermittent movement of the dress’s wings, [grandfather] declared to his colleague that he would not leave Cai Bè without [his future wife.] He had to humiliate another young girl who had been promised to him and alienate the elders in his family before he could touch my grandmother’s hands. Some believed that he was in love with her long-lashed almond eyes, others, with her fleshy lips, while still others were convinced that he’d been seduced by her full hips. No one had noticed the slender fingers holding a notebook against her bosom except my grandfather, who kept describing them for decades. He continued to evoke them long after age had transformed those smooth, tapering fingers into a fabulous myth or, at the very most, a lovers’ tale.