The summer of 1979 was a turning point for 10-year-old Long-Vanh, the narrator in the novel “The Land South of the Clouds” by Genaro Ky Ly Smith, a professor of creative writing at Louisiana Tech. In 1979, “Apocalypse Now” was released, the Iranian hostage crisis continued and Americans experienced a painful gas shortage.
It was also the summer Long-Vanh’s mother decides to return to Vietnam.
The book begins with Long-Vanh forced to keep his mother’s secret of wanting to return to her war-torn country to help her father, lingering in a reeducation camp. As the summer unfolds and Long-Vanh anxiously fears of his mother’s disappearance, we learn of his pains growing up as a con lai, half Vietnamese and half African American, even in Asia Minor, an area of Los Angeles where other Vietnam veterans and their foreign brides reside.
As Long-Vanh watches his mother, trying desperately to keep her from leaving, we also witness the pain of immigration. Long-Vanh doesn’t speak Vietnamese so he’s not fully immersed in the culture, ignorant of the letters coming from Vietnam. He’s also not fully black, so he lives an existence constantly feeling less than whole.
Add to the mix his mother’s repercussions of leaving her country and the scorn of her father for marrying an American, his father returning to a country unaccepting of mixed marriages not to mention the racial divide and the disregard of Vietnam veterans and neighboring Vietnamese children ashamed of their parents who lost the war.
“The Land South of the Clouds” offers an insightful look into the unique experience of Vietnamese immigration by a writer who understands it fully. Smith was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, to a mother he writes in the acknowledgements, “who left more than her father and family behind, but a whole country for what America could promise us…”
Smith received both his M.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing from McNeese. He is also the author of “The Land Baron’s Son: The Story of Ly Loc and His Seven Wives,” which ties into this novel (both published by UL-Lafayette Press), plus other works of poetry and fiction.
At the Lafayette library
Here’s a resolution that improves your brain, one that heightens your senses and enhances your understanding of the world and the human condition. In the end, you get a cool prize. Read or listen to 100 books between now and Dec. 31 and you will become a member of the 100 Book Club at the Lafayette Library. I've joined up, now how about you? Wanna see who can read the most? Complete rules are available at LafayettePublicLibrary.org.
The Friends of the Lafayette Public Library will have a mystery book sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Main Library, 301 W. Congress in downtown Lafayette. The sale will include mystery books and DVDs only.
Arbor Day in Louisiana is celebrated on the third Saturday in January. Learn more about planting and caring for trees from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the East Regional Library when naturalists from the Louisiana State Arboretum discuss selecting and planting native trees for home landscapes. A limited supply of free tree seedlings will be available.
Dr. Jon Donlon will discuss his book about the culture of cockfighting in Southern Louisiana, “Bayou Country Bloodsport,” from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the South Regional Library.
Former Advertiser editor and writer Jim Bradshaw explains the “History of the Oil and Gas Industry in Lafayette” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum. Seating is limited and admission is free. Refreshments will be served.
Carla Serenity of Opelousas — who has worked numerous fashion shows such as Mercedes Bens Fashion Week in Houston and Fashion Week New York and represented models as Serenity’s Closet Talent Management — mentors young women and offers advice on fashion and modeling in her book “Carla Serenity” A Southern Girl’s Guide To Success.” For more information on the book and to order a copy, visit http://www.carlaserenity.com.
Historian, writer and a director at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours and the Ambrose Institute of New Orleans Mark Bielski describe the story of nine transplanted Poles who participated in the Civil War in his book, “Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation. The nine span three generations and are connected by culture, nationality and adherence to their principles and ideals with the common thread that they came from a country that had basically disintegrated at the end of the previous century, yet they carried the concepts of freedom they inherited from their forefathers to the New World.
Since 1976, Jerry E. Strahan has been general manager of Lucky Dogs, the famous hot dog stand ones sees on the streets of New Orleans. Now his story is told in “Lucky Dogs: From Bourbon Street to Beijing and Beyond,” published by the University of Mississippi Press. Strahan is also the author of “Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II” and “Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter.”
Linda Joyce will release on Wednesday book two in the Fleur de Lis Brides series, a novel titled “Biloxi.” The romance centers around Biloxi Dutrey, who is marrying at the restored Fleur de Lis house. To get to the altar, however, she and her finance must face a battle where the family loyalty lines are murky.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.