Check out my newest article this Thursday in Narrative Magazine on Brooke Luu, a Vietnamese refugee who fought for respect and acceptance in America.
I found it amazing when she told me that she didn’t even think she had an interesting story to tell, despite the fact that she escaped Vietnam past armed guards. She told me once that her husband (who is also Vietnamese) had a similar story, but they never even discussed it, because “if you are Vietnamese, then you escaped. We all have that story.”
Check it out on Narratively Magazine on April 10.
Narrative.ly was named one of Time Magazine’s fifty best websites of 2013. No celebrity trash, just good ol’ fashioned long form storytelling.
Here’s a teaser:
Five year-old Brooke Luu shivered as she kept her eyes on her mother. There were forty bodies crammed in that fishing boat, each trying to remain silent in hopes that the guards armed with AK-47s would allow them to pass into the night and leave the shores of Vietnam forever.
She watched intently as her mother repeatedly tried to slip a sleeping pill into her infant brother’s mouth so he wouldn’t cry and alert the border patrol. If caught, the women would be sent home, maybe to jail. As for the men, a worse fate likely awaited them.
Brooke’s mother mishandled the cup of water as she forced the medicine down the child’s throat and the water splashed on him. He wailed as the rest of the passengers grew restless. All she could do was cup her hand over the child’s mouth to muffle the shrieks.
“There was no way around the guards. We would have to go straight through them,” Brooke recalls. “All we could do was pray that they would let us keep sailing.”
To reach their first destination—a relocation camp in Malaysia—the Luu family would have to escape Vietnam and battle the South Chinese River without a compass. Rumors of Thai pirates and their savagery loomed.
All to reach America.
She can’t determine what was real and what her memory has pieced together. The recollections fade and reappear when she recalls that night in 1980 when her family attempted to bribe and fight their way to a new life without Communism, without control and without fear. She would eventually find it, yet later struggle for acceptance in her new country—and in her old one.
“The children of the Vietnam War that fled have been stripped of an identity,” she says. “All because we didn’t stay behind.”
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