On August 20, 2021, as usual and per subscription, CBC Books Newsletter arrived to my mailbox. Among the list of 57 recommended Canadian nonfictions was Three Funerals for My Father. I told myself, my Father 'spirit is with the book. Therefore, he will guide it to where he wants it to be.
Years ago, I subscribed to CBC Books to receive information about their recommended books. When I started to write, I could not help but dream that my book would be listed in CBC Books some days. On August 2, 2021, I happened to google my name, and to my astonishment, Three Funerals for My Father is listed in CBC Books, even before the book is available. I was both happy and sad, thinking of my Father. Even in his absence from this world, he was still an essential part of what made my dream come true.
My father taught me what selflessness means.
My father conducted his life living for others and thought of himself last. His devotion to his family was absolute, as his perfectionist character. I still see his practice to this day because I see them in my brothers and nephews as they become fathers.
When my mind was in some imaginative clouds, others told me to be practical. But my father asked me what I saw in those clouds because dream and vision are elements that quietly sustain realism.
In October of 2020, I received a surprise phone call offering a writing contract, but the story that I was going to write had to be based on Anchorless. She said the book spoke to her, but it was too short. I thought with Anchorless, my father literally travelled the world and landed on this editor’s desk. My nieces and nephews also told me that they wanted to know more. After reading Anchorless, they said a huge unknown part was missing.
Then I remembered my father encouraged me to dream higher and broader so that some days, I would probably be able to catch a piece of that dream.
So, I wrote more about my father, about his life, his ghost, his spiritual existence around me, about my youngest sister Lan Phuong, and about my mother …
The day June 15 of 2021, marks 36 years of his death and my youngest sister’s death. The day before that, the final edited version of the manuscript was completed and sent to the printer to produce Advance Reader Copies.
Then I realized the deeper meaning of selflessness. In his physical absence, my father taught me that words have the power to heal.
Three Funerals for my Father – Love, Loss and Escape from Vietnam will be launched in October 2021, published by Tidewater Press. The genre of the book is non-fiction with magical realism.
Anchorless received First Prize, Literary Fiction from North Street Book Prize. The administrator asked me to write four paragraphs of my biography. I wanted to include what I wrote in this blog.
"I was born in war-torn Vietnam, in the small town of Quang Duc, where my father owned and operated a construction business. He got the Americans' contract to expand the village by constructing more roads, building hospitals, schools, and military barracks. My first memory of the grueling war was running through a dark tunnel, hearing loud gunfights, and hiding in an underground cave in the middle of the night. My father courageously guarded the door while my mother quietly sang a song to soothe their children's fears. When I reached school age, my parents moved the family to settle in Dalat city, where the civilians experienced the least impact of the war. I grew up with ten siblings, sheltered by my parents while the Vietnam War news made headlines around the world.
The years 1979 to 1989 were a decade defined by images of Vietnamese Boat People. The news about their horrendous escapes, astounding rescues at sea, and the rapid establishment of refugee camps dominated the broadcasting channels. Five of my siblings and I fled Vietnam in May of 1983. After surviving nine days at sea, we arrived in Indonesia and lived in the Galang Refugee Camp until we resettled in Canada in July of 1984. I obtained my priceless freedom, but its consequence was years of living in agony. My father and my youngest sister perished at sea in their attempt to escape Vietnam in 1985.
Fate can be brutal. Grief has made time become a toxin of pain. Yet, I was deeply rooted in the teaching of the discipline and the resilience accentuated by tradition. Responsibility is the priority when life poses a challenge and gives no transparent solution to a grief-stricken individual's mentality. Almost every year, during June, I held a memorial for my father and youngest sister. My daughters asked me about the circumstances behind their deaths. The answer is not simple, to be worded in a few effortless sentences.
I was trained to teach mathematics. For more than twenty-five years, my career has been based on lectures about formulas, mathematical theorems, and how numbers shaped our lives. Mathematics kept me focused whenever my mind was in chaos from tangling thoughts mixed with endless unanswered questions. However, while putting my thoughts on paper, I had to dig deep into my heart, search for the solution in the depth of my soul. In the process, thoughts were disentangled, and questions were answered. Grief and sorrow were a pair but slowly separated, then departed with the increasing numbers of words that resulted in the completion of Anchorless".
Around this time, last year, June 2019, I recall…the death anniversary of my father and my youngest sister, and her birthday were approaching. The Hoang’s brothers and sisters reminded each other of the date. I pulled the manuscript for Anchorless out from the pile of mixed journals. At that time, Anchorless had a different title. I wrote the memoir to provide the answers to my daughters, who asked me about her Grandfather and her Aunt.
While my daughters asked, I knew that the answers were not simple.
June is the month that marks Father’s Day. Over the years, and for so many years, I was not able to celebrate Father’s Day with my father. I envied those who still have a father to send Father’s Day card to, to call, to go out to celebrate, to hug and warmed their hearts with their father ‘s laughter.
I decided to go ahead with the process of publishing my work and named the memoir Anchorless.
This year, June 2020, I hold Anchorless closed to my heart, to send my love to my Father as Father’s Day is approaching.
I also would like to express my sincere thanks for all kind words, reviews and five- stars-rating which I received from those who read Anchorless. I am honoured.
First Book Signing Event for Anchorless is a Great Success
Locals arrived at the Pelham Public Library on Saturday February 22, 2020 to attend author Jolie P. Hoang’s very first book signing for the creative non-fiction memoir Anchorless.
The room was full of people from many backgrounds and ages; among them were some who had also come to Canada as immigrants. As they lined up to have their book signed, a few remarked that the book reminded them of their own feelings regarding their family histories.
Once everyone had their book signed, they sat down to view a presentation by Jolie about the book. The presentation provided an overview of the book’s themes, some family photos, and a close-up of a map of Vietnam.
A Q&A Session revealed much enthusiasm about the historical period that the story was set in (1960-1985), the political climate of Vietnam today, the details of the Hoang family’s escape from Vietnam and how they weathered the boat journey, sponsorship from a refugee camp, and adjusting to life in Canada.
The presentation was concluded with a performance by Jolie of the poem “The Best Gift”, which appears in the book.
Thank you to all who came out to support!