[ Mon Mar 19 12 ]

In The Reeducation of Cherry Truong the American-born Cherry wants to know how her no-good brother got his act together and why in the world he’s chosen to stay put in Vietnam. “It’s not home”, Cherry says as she ineptly wraps rice paper rolls with her grandaunt. “It’s not America”. Once upon a time Cherry’s parents sent her older brother away and now, in between tourist jaunts, she plans to bring him home… back to their home, in California.

To the small, eager crowd that’s made it to Book Passage on a quiet Monday night, Phan confesses that her debut novel was part inspired by a notorious parental threat one often heard while growing up as a U.S.-born Vietnamese: That unruly teenagers could be “exiled back to Vietnam” and sent to “live with the communists” in order to see just how hard living could be. What would happen, Phan wondered, if parents, who had risked their lives to escape war and oppression, made good on the threat and shipped their kid off for some life lessons?

For Cherry Truong, traveling to homeland Vietnam spawns an unexpected, post-modern awareness as she reclaims her “reeducation” from the place her parents had long disparaged and abandoned. Before she wraps up for the night, Phan reassures us that the book — especially the exiled brother part — is not autobiographical. Rather, it attempts to isolate “emotional truth”, or the kind one might discover when lost lives and difficult choices from a faraway time and place are brought out of exile and into the present.

Above is the video of the entire evening. Click “Play” to watch all, “Next” to skip forward, or the small “Insert” screen (to the right of the video time) to see thumbnails and watch them directly.

– Evelyn Manangan-Price