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Em
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
11 posts | 5 read | 7 to read
A novel of the emotional intricacies of trauma and exile, from the author of international bestselling Ru Finalist of the New Academy Prize in Literature Finalist Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner du Prix du Gran Public au salon du livre de Montreal Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction Winner of the Grand Prix RTL-Lire Emma-Jade and Louis are born into the havoc of the Vietnam War. Orphaned, saved and cared for by adults coping with the chaos of Saigon in free-fall, they become children of the Vietnamese diaspora. Em is not a romance in any usual sense of the word, but it is a word whose homonym--aimer, to love--resonates on every page, a book powered by love in the larger sense. A portrait of Vietnamese identity emerges that is wholly remarkable, honed in wartime violence that borders on genocide, and then by the ingenuity, sheer grit and intelligence of Vietnamese-Americans, Vietnamese-Canadians and other Vietnamese former refugees who go on to build some of the most powerful small business empires in the world. Em is a poetic story steeped in history, about those most impacted by the violence and their later accomplishments. In many ways, Em is perhaps Kim Thy's most personal book, the one in which she trusts her readers enough to share with them not only the pervasive love she feels but also the rage and the horror at what she and so many other children of the Vietnam War had to live through. Written in Kim Thy's trademark style, near to prose poetry, Em reveals her fascination with connection. Through the linked destinies of characters connected by birth and destiny, the novel zigzags between the rubber plantations of Indochina; daily life in Saigon during the war as people find ways to survive and help each other; Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War; and today's global nail polish and nail salon industry, largely driven by former Vietnamese refugees--and everything in between. Here are human lives shaped both by unspeakable trauma and also the beautiful sacrifices of those who made sure at least some of these children survived.
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xicanti
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Some authors write books I never want to shut up about. Others write books that carry me along so thoroughly I never want to discuss my response. I only want to tell others to read them so they can experience the sensation too, with as little outside input as possible.

Kim Thúy‘s like that. You should read her. She‘s worth it.

(I‘m sure she‘s also infinitely discussable, if she hits you that way.)

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Nute
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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I came across a favorite author‘s book today in the bookstore. I always seem to find her books almost accidentally. While I‘m 💯 focused on a mad-hunt for something else, she finds me. We cross paths. Maybe serendipitously…I could call it that because I consider it a favorable encounter. You see, I took her to heart with the first book that I read by her many years ago.👇🏽

Nute I slid her underneath that favorite author cloak and added her books to a ‘special‘ shelf.
She snags my attention at these unexpected meetings. Her storytelling is an emotional drenching. She writes with pureness of heart. It‘s easy to tag along. I‘ll fall asleep with this one tonight. Or I‘ll stay up ‘til sunrise if we are still groovin‘ with each other.
3mo
Trashcanman 🤗❤️ 3mo
ChaoticMissAdventures ♥️♥️♥️ 3mo
See All 6 Comments
michellelav I'll have to check her out! Love finding new authors to read 😁 2mo
Nute @michellelav I hope that you find time to discover her writing. Please let me know if and when you read something by her so that we can chat.☺️ 2mo
michellelav @Nute absolutely! It would probably be in the new year but I'll keep you in mind 😁 2mo
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review
ReadingEnvy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Pickpick

I saw this on the Giller Prize longlist and decided to give it a try - it is a fragmentary portrayal of some of the events near the end of the Vietnamese-American war from the perspective of children who are displaced in the process. There were beautiful turns of phrase but if you weren't already pretty familiar with those events it might have been difficult to read, not sure. I liked the author and will try the next book they write!

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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Pickpick

The forward movement from character to character, chapter to chapter, would be dizzying if not for Kim Thúy‘s spare prose that clearly shows the links, establishing order amidst the chaos of the war in Vietnam. True events, especially the My Lai massacre & Operation Babylift—are central to the story. I wept. Love is the antidote to trauma & this novel is full to the brim with love. A balm for the heart. Impeccable #translation by Sheila Fischman.

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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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If I knew how to end a conversation, if I could distinguish true truths, personal truths from instinctive truths, I would have disentangled the threads for you before tying them up or arranging them so that the story of this book would be clear between us.

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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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During her visit to a camp in 1975, Tippi Hedren, actress in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds, received compliments from the Vietnamese refugees for her impeccable fingernails, which gave her the idea of organizing a manicure class for 20 or so women. Her first students, new Californians, passed their knowledge on to 60 more, who themselves trained other manicurists & so they multiplied, becoming 360, 3060 & more.

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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Upon arrival at their destination, the coolies worked as hard as beasts on sugar cane plantations, down in mines, building railroads, often dying before the end of their 5-year contract without having received their promised & longed-for salary. Companies involved in the trade assumed beforehand that 20, 30, or 40 percent of the “lots” would perish in the course of the voyage at sea.

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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and the following year, the rate of infections contracted sexually by the troops grew from less than four percent to more than seventy-five percent, which later led, during the First World War, to the German government‘s giving high priority to the production of condoms to protect its soldiers, even though there was a serious shortage of rubber.

marleed Interesting! 4mo
ravenlee I just had a history lesson with the kiddo about the Franco-Prussian War! I never knew much about it before (thanks goodness for homeschooling). I think I‘ll keep this tidbit to myself, though - as she‘s only in fourth grade! 😆 4mo
Lindy @ravenlee Yes, dispense this kind of information on a need-to-know basis. 😉 4mo
Lindy @marleed Readers learn stuff every day 😄 4mo
20 likes4 comments
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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Instead of an epigraph, this novel opens with a sweet author‘s note about the title.

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Lindy
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Picked up two newly published novels today for my Giller longlist reading. These two, plus two more, are yet to be read before the shortlist is announced on October 5… I must read harder! #shadowgiller2021

Cathythoughts Oh just stacked The Strangers.. I loved The Break 4mo
Lindy @Cathythoughts Phoenix, from The Break, is back in Vermette‘s newest novel. It‘s about her family. 🙂 4mo
34 likes2 comments
blurb
Marsha Skrypuch
Em: A Novel | Kim Thuy
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Original and immersive, I loved this narrative of the Vietnamese street urchin who nurtures the foundling. This short novel is strung together in a series of intense vignettes, and the reader is thrust into the lives of an interconnected cast of people to reveal how their lives have been decimated by the vagaries of war.