for creative nonfiction, i’ve been writing a bit about my mother and family. sometimes i call my parents and ask them for their stories. it started out with me asking them where they were in their lives at age 21, where i’ll be in just over two weeks. my mother, already a mother, and my father, a soldier in the south vietnamese army.
thursday’s soup and substance, besides being absolutely delicious, drew heavily from history. the panelists (including one of my favorite strong women of color, prof. pain) reflected on their generational history before giving answer to the topic at hand. as i was chatting it up with rod beeskey during the interactive portion of the program, i thought about my relationship to history, and how for me it generally stops short at my parents. i hardly know my parents’ stories, let alone that of my grandparents or beyond.
questions of culture and authenticity can be difficult for a diasporic child. it’s hard to even get past the language with which to address them and work through. i don’t communicate with my parents in the same language that i use to relay their stories. it’s easy to get lost and commit false truths in translation. but it’s a start. and to take the charge to embark on the excavation may prove to provide even more questions than answers, more journeys.
my mother didn’t grow up eating bò bía; she learned to cook it only after making the rounds of vietnamese grocery shops in the united states. she ate the vegetables that she and her family farmed, boiled.