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Grace King Following the end of the Vietnam war in the late 1970s, thousands of Vietnamese communities, were accepted into Canada as refugees, some without even having any proof of identification. The novel ‘‘Ru’’ by Kim Thuy is written based on her own life experience and follows the series of events of a young girl and her family, from their life in Vietnam during war, to a refugee camp in Malaysia, to a new lifestyle in Canada. The author demonstrates the importance of a safe environment over cultural identity. In the book, it is shown how some people around the world are stripped from their identities, spending the rest of their lives having to adapt themselves to a new society and sacrificing parts of themselves to give their loved ones a better future. The urge for an identity, as well as the reality of the lifestyle without one is expressed in detail by a character who experienced it herself.


To begin, the characters from the novel ‘‘Ru’’ are stripped of their cultured identities during their transition from Vietnam into a new country. In the book, Nguyễn An Tịnh explains how the war and the history of Vietnam has forced them to unwillingly relocate to Canada, stripping the meaning from their Vietnamese names as well as her mother’s plan to have her story be continued through her daughter.

‘‘The History of Vietnam, written with a capital H, thwarted my mother’s plans. History flung the accents on our names into the water when it took us across the Gulf of Siam thirty years ago. It also stripped our names of their meaning, reducing them to sounds at once strange, and strange to the French language.’’ (Thuy, 9)


As Nguyễn An Tịnh also becomes a mother, she shares the same experience with her children. She says ‘‘Because of our exile, my children have never been extensions of me, of my history...they don’t look like me. They have hair that’s lighter in colour than mine, white skin, thick eyelashes.’’ (Thuy, 10) This shows how easily a part of Nguyễn An Tịnh’s and her mother's identities have been taken from them and how the characters will now have to spend time looking for new identities.

In addition, immigrants spend a big part of their lives adapting their identities to be accepted in the environment they wish to live. Nguyễn An Tịnh explains that in order to leave Vietnam, her family and her had to label themselves as a different nationality. ‘‘My family and I became Chinese. We called on the genes of my ancestors so that we could leave with the tacit consent of the police.’’ (Thuy, 46). Over the years, the american ‘‘melting pot’’ allowed its country to thrive. ‘‘Various ethnic groups enriched America... while accepting a common culture of American values and institutions.’’ (Hanson, America: History’s exception) Therefore, the assimilation of immigrants led to the prosperity of America. Thus, the characters continued to reform their identities to ensure their safety and acceptance into new countries.

Lastly, many parents in the story sacrifice leaving their identities and their culture behind to move to a safer country, in order to give their children a better life and future. For instance, Nguyễn An Tịnh explains how her mother sacrificed a language barrier by coming to Canada, and how her mother pushed her to learn the countries two official languages, French and English so that she would be able to communicate and ultimately have a better life. ‘‘My mother wanted me to talk, to learn French as fast as possible, English too, because my mother tongue had become not exactly insufficient, but useless.’’ (Thuy, 24) This shows how Nguyễn An Tịnh’s parents had to sacrifice a part of their identities in order to move to Canada and build a better living situation for their children. Also, she briefly mentions how her mother’s life completely changed to be able to make enough money to live in Canada. Nguyễn An Tịnh says:

‘‘My mother waged her first battles later, without sorrow. She went to work for the first time at the age of thirty-four, first as a cleaning lady, then at jobs in plants, factories, restaurants. Before, in the life that she had lost, she was the eldest daughter of her perfect father. All she did was settle arguments between the French-food chef and the Vietnamese-food chef in the family courtyard.’’ (Thuy, 19)



This shows the immense sacrifice and the change of identity her parents had to make for their children.


To conclude, the novel ‘‘Ru’’ by Kim Thuy describes the priority of safety and well being over identity, as characters lose their identities through forcefulness and sacrifice. Not only does this book refer to an intense reality, but Kim Thuy also uses imagery as a way of reaching out to the minds of the readers, truly allowing them to grasp every detail and emotion felt in the story. This book who, won the French-language Governor-General's Award in 2010, is an excellent reminder of why Canadians should not only accept refugees with open arms into the country, but encourage their incorporation of culture into the next generation’s society.


message 2: by Susan's Reviews (last edited Jul 28, 2018 09:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan's Reviews This author says so much, with so few words. There is absolutely no filler, no wasted words: therefore, there is nowhere to hide, and her truth is absolutely crystal clear. You have to admire this author's courageous exposure all of that pain and suffering - and all the while her tone is often stark and (seemingly) unemotional. Truly, truly gifted.


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