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Scattered across the world, the Boat People shaped unknown and alien places, into their new homes. Hear their stories of adjusting to their new surroundings.

Book Sale

Story by Vi Nguyen.

[Huong Hoang]: Let’s talk about when you were young, mum.

[Vi Nguyen]: So after April 30th (the fall of the South), it was very sad. The Viet Cong made us get rid of all of our books, calling them obscene. I loved those books though, I thought they were great. So people went out to the street to sell them! Because otherwise they would just burn them anyway and it would be a waste. Your Dad (who was a family friend at the time) showed up that day with his [Yamaha] bike and took me to the sale. There were so many books, just everywhere on the street, I was so happy! There were a lot of storybooks, like softcovers here, especially teenage literature.

[Huong]: How old were you and dad?

[Vi]: I was, probably sixteen at the time (laughs)? Dad must have been, twenty three or twenty four. I didn’t have any money, so Dad bought some books for me.

 [Huong]: Wow, Dad was soooo nice.

[Vi]: The books were cheap. But still, I was very happy and brought home a couple of books with me. Your dad and I stayed there pretty late I think, he bought some bò bía (rice wraps) for us to eat.  It’s actually really interesting how they do it [at the stand], it was so hot out that they didn’t have to dip the rice paper in water, they just took a wet towel and wet it afterwards. Inside the wraps were some dried shrimp, peanuts, and chinese sausage. He brought it home for the entire family to eat. In Vietnam, these kinds of dishes were so common and cheap we tend to just buy them instead of making them ourselves like we do here [in Canada].

Not a lot longer after that your Dad was forced into the re-education camps. He was gone for two and a half years. This was all a nice memory. I mean, at the time we weren’t dating or anything, we were just “kickin’ the chicken.”

[Huong]: You were what? What does that mean?

[Vi]: Oh it just meant that we were, I guess, just eyeing each other? I think your Dad liked me, I could tell, but I didn’t say anything. That’s probably why he brought me to the market, and I got some books out of it. But I mean, I was sixteen in 1975!