Why Vietnam? Thatís the question that people most often ask
me. I realize Vietnam is an odd subject for a Jewish girl
from Memphis who, before 1990, had no direct connection to
that small country in Southeast Asia. While most other
writers keep to one genre and shift subjects from project to
project, Iíve continually shifted my genres and keep
returning to Vietnam.
As a storyteller, Iím enthralled by the stories that come to
me from Vietnam, and I write in the genre that best conveys
the particular story that I want to tell. After living in
Hanoi in the early 1990s, I wrote a memoir, The House on
Dream Street, in order to convey my own experiences and
the stories Iíd heard from the people I came to know there.
Two Cakes Fit for a King, the collection of folktales
I wrote with my Hanoi-born friends Nguyen Nguyet Cam and Bui
Hoai Mai, came out of our desire to introduce to an
English-speaking audience the stories they had loved as
children. I wrote my novel If You Lived Here, in part
to capture the feeling Iíd had, while living in Vietnam,
that we treat the stories of our lives like sacred objects,
holding them close and, often, keeping them secret. Telling
a story, or failing to tell it, can make a
relationship blossom, or cause it to wither completely.
My next project focuses on the story of Operation Babylift,
the U.S.-led evacuation of Vietnamese children at the end of
the war and their subsequent placement with adoptive
families overseas. Why this story? I once saw a photograph
taken during Operation Babylift. Shot inside an airplane,
the photograph frames a single row of seats. A cardboard box
lies on each seat, and each box holds a tiny baby in it.
When I saw that picture, I knew I had to tell that story.
I doubt Iíll write about Vietnam for the rest of my life. I
have other stories to tell. I plan to write a book about
Memphis in the í60s and í70s, tentatively titled The
Church of Whatís Happeniní Now, Baby, and Iím also
working on a Chick Lit novel set in Wilmington, North
Carolina. That oneís called Number One International