Dim Sum Diaries

I Find Out About Things Months Afterwards, But Here It Is

Awhile ago I oohed and ahhed over Andrew X. Pham's book Catfish and Mandela. I think one reason his writing resonates with me so strongly is that if one has close Vietnamese friends, and you want to find out more about the who's, what's and why's about their culture and THEM, its a book you simply must read.

So anyways, his website is quite outdated and I wanted to find out more about what he is doing, what he is writing, etc. Quite stalkerish, eh? Finally, after googling his name countless times, some news pops up. I find this article (via) about what he's been up to, though it seems to be at least a year old I think. But happy day, apparently he is helping to translate a new book called Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram. NPR did a story on it back last year.

Tram writes about her experiences during the Vietnam war as a doctor (in the Northern Army, if that is the correct term for it). But its how she wrote it that strikes a chord in the heart of those who read it...here's a sample:

April 8, 1968: Today I did an appendectomy without enough medicine, just a few tubes of Novocain. But the wounded young soldier never cried out or yelled. He just kept smiling, to encourage me. I felt so sorry for him, because his stomach is infected. I would like to tell him, 'Patients like you, who I cannot cure, cause me the most sorrow.'

Another poignant excerpt:

June 20, 1970: "Until today no one has returned. It has been almost 10 days since they left and promised to come back. Why haven't they returned? Is there a problem? We didn't think anyone would leave us like this. I am not a child. I am grown up, and already strong in the face of hardships. But at this minute, why do I want so much a mother's hand to care for me? Or the hand of a close friend? Please come to me and hold my hand when I am so lonely. Love me and give me strength to travel the hard sections of the road ahead."

Tram was killed in a firefight on June 22, 1970. Her diary found its way into the hands of an American soldier who kept it for years, but eventually donated it to the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University for translation. Somehow someone from the Center managed to place the diary into the hands of Tram's MOTHER while looking for volunteers to help with translation. Go figure. The book is a huge hit in Vietnam, and the U.S. edition is out 9/11/07.

I look forward to reading it.