Los Angeles Review of Books Review & Into the Past to the Future

Somehow I ended up taking a rather long hiatus, but let’s go back to summer for a moment, when the days were long and the temperature was much, much warmer (curse you, chilly 40 degree Fahrenheit fall weather).



It’s July. I’m reading Dragonfish, on review assignment for the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), a really great publication filled with the great writers and thought-provoking writing. Zach, noir editor at LARB, had emailed me asking me if I wanted to contribute and of course, I jumped at the chance.

Dragonfish is a novel that’s about Vietnamese refugees, the lives that they lead and the stories that they tell, years after coming to America. It’s classified as a mystery but at it’s core, it’s a story about survival, love, hope and the things we do to have those things. A white-American goes to search for his Vietnamese ex-wife after she disappears and he’s found more questions than answers on his search.
It’s to no one’s surprise that I support Asian American writers and literature, as well as the greater awareness of Asian American issues. Too often we are characterized and stereotyped as the model minority and left out, without a voice. What are our stories? The stories that keep us up at night, the stories that we listen to, the stories that we keep, what are those? 

After my review went to publication, I had found a Reddit thread that was about old-school cool but it started to discuss the Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos refugee situation in detail, with posters sharing their personal family histories. It was a mere coincidence of course that these two events had occurred within days of each other but it was eye-opening and a reminder that there’s so much that people don’t know and so much that isn’t talked about.
A poster in the thread writes on how his (her?) grandfather crossed the Mekong, “My grandfather blew up a plastic bag for a makeshift raft and swam across in the middle of the night. The rest of the family, including my grandmother and my parents (with my mother pregnant with me at the time) follow afterwards on a boat (had to find someone who were willing). Again in the middle of the night.”

It’s these stories that need to be told, whether in fiction, on TV or elsewhere. Dragonfish was a great read for me, emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating.

Read my review of Dragonfish for Los Angeles Review of Books here


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Maira Gall