From diaCRITICS comes this memoir essay by Hoangmai Pham, who escaped from Saigon to the U.S. with her family in 1975, at age seven. Keeper of Stories is a work-in-progress that interweaves her family’s history in Vietnam and America, and her own psychological journey surviving and understanding that history. Only recently has Mai learned that her strategy for coping with her traumas was what is referred to as a dissociative disorder, in which she compartmentalized pieces of her personality to keep them safe. The memoir traces how she unearthed her family’s history, and explains how that helped her integrate her different parts. “Running Saigon” is the third “chapterlet” in the memoir. On her blog, you can find preceding chapters about her naming and how her self-exploration began. She posts drafts of chapterlets for readers to comment on.
In Vietnam I was too busy to care what I wore. In one photograph on the banks of a waterway, I am three and sit with my brother Chuong on a bench, my feet in the air. I am nearly falling off with laughter. In New Year’s pictures from each year of my toddler-hood I am posed in my Tet outfit, custom sewn to match those of one set of girl cousins or another – red polyester with blue polka-dotted patch pockets and sleeves one year, yellow pantsuit another year with large white daisy appliques. But I am turning my head this way or that, looking at something besides the camera, smiling or laughing…continue reading here.
diaCRITICS is the leading blog on Vietnamese diasporic arts and culture, published by the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network. DVAN promotes the work of Vietnamese artists everywhere, and both DVAN and diaCRITICS are always looking for writers, contributors, and helpers.