Ru, a novel by Kim Thuy

diaCRITICS will periodically post blogs from other places. So our next guest blog is from Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, writing on Ru, a novel by Kim Thuy, published in 2009 by Libre Expression:

I started Ru by Kim Thuy and could not put it down. Written in French, Ru is not very long (145 pages), but its chronicle of the author’s journey from Vietnam to Canada ranks among the best articulations I have read of the experiences of the Vietnamese, particularly the 1.5 generation, in the Diaspora. The language is clear and direct but also poetic. The author does not hide behind allegories. Ru is the memoir of a Vietnamese professional woman, from an old establishment family, who in the end left Vietnam by boat and became a refugee. The outlines of the story are not new: past privilege, dangerous journey on the seas, downward mobility, personal identity entangled with social and cultural memory of a lost country, complex family dynamics, sorting sources of inspiration and pain…. The voice however is original. The poetic style of the prose does not sacrifice meaning but deepens it. Each sentence adds layers of evocation that together capture with acute precision what she calls this empty identity (“ce vide identitaire”), that sense of having been uprooted by force and everything that ensues, like the process of forgetting that comes with new privileges in the host country, with raising children with a non-Vietnamese father, or simply with the years passing by.  The narrator describes herself as dark (“sombre”) and remembers being in the shadow of others in Vietnam, especially that of her cousin. Her mother’s younger brother could be playful and flamboyant and spoil his daughter like a princess. As the daughter of the responsible older daughter however, the narrator received far less praise and much tougher love, especially with war approaching and the eventual journey that turned her and family into refugees. Now a mother herself, she comes to a deeper understanding of her own mother and of her actions and finally of the meaning of love.  This book is beautifully and powerfully written; I highly recommend it to those who read French – others should look forward to its translation.

Read more about Kim Thuy in English here.

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud is an associate professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. Temple University Press will soon publish her book this is all i choose to tell: Hybridity and History in Vietnamese American Literature.


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One response to “Ru, a novel by Kim Thuy

  1. Dear Ms Pelaud,

    I was very much moved by Kim Thuy’s novel, Ru. It is indeed a compelling story for Canadians, both of Vietnamese ancestry and other Canadians who welcomed the Boat People to Canada in the late 1970s and 1980s.
    I have also recently finished a novel, Soldier, Lily, Peace and Pearls, that has as two of the main characters refugees from Saigon and Phnom Penh. Whle not exclusively about the experience of Vietnamese-Canadians, many of the early chapters take place in Vietnam, Cambodia, Pulau Bidong refugee camp in Malaysia and in Bangkok. The novel is currently available for free downloading from my Deux Voiliers Publishing web site at and paperback copies can be ordered through Please note that I am not of Vietnamese ancestry, but was inspired to write the novel by the many anecdotes that a Vietnamese friend told me of her experience as a Boat Person. I hope that you will enjoy reading the novel.

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