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!