The Book of Salt
December 17, 2007
I heard about this book long ago. It is only now that I am reading it. The book re-imagines history.
We are the same age. We even live in the same town, Can Tho.
“To the list of most offensive oxymoron I added the phrase smart bombs. I wept, remembering the remedial ones that shook my family’s house in Can Tho, a city to the south of Saigon, on the banks of the Mekong.” -Monique Truong. for the Times article. time.com/time/asia/2003/journey/vietnam.html
It’s eerie to see your house again on a VHS video tape. Our neighbor from Vietnam went back to Can Tho in the mid 90s. My family visited the neighbor in San Jose when they got back. We are sitting in their living room in California watching the video. When my parents left, the house was handed over to the local officials. The video shows a distant view of the crumbling facade. I can still remember collecting the mosaic tiles that drop due to the humidity and age. It is now being occupied by the communist officials, that thought was strange. It is more of a building then a home. There were six levels. The ground floor is the shop. We lived above. Our cousins, uncles, and hired help live on the floors above. There is the balcony from where I like to watch the parade of Ao Dai, women and men, couples, and families strolling towards church. I flew kites on the very top terrace and watch fire works on the Lunar Chinese New Years. The blinds hung between railings and the ceiling. When the sun went away, the blinds were rolled up. This rolls provided a perfect nesting place for swallows and mynahs.
I have not gone back to Vietnam. I had a chance to when my old-girl-friend invited me to go back in the late 90s. I had just started working at a prestigious architectural firm and didn’t have vacation time. I suppose that was one of the points in our eventual partings.