A novel of the emotional intricacies of trauma and exile, from the author of international bestselling Ru
Finalist of the New Academy Prize in Literature
Finalist Scotiabank Giller Prize
Winner du Prix du Gran Public au salon du livre de Montreal
Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Winner of the Grand Prix RTL-Lire
Emma-Jade and Louis are born into the havoc of the Vietnam War. Orphaned, saved and cared for by adults coping with the chaos of Saigon in free-fall, they become children of the Vietnamese diaspora. Em is not a romance in any usual sense of the word, but it is a word whose homonym--aimer, to love--resonates on every page, a book powered by love in the larger sense. A portrait of Vietnamese identity emerges that is wholly remarkable, honed in wartime violence that borders on genocide, and then by the ingenuity, sheer grit and intelligence of Vietnamese-Americans, Vietnamese-Canadians and other Vietnamese former refugees who go on to build some of the most powerful small business empires in the world. Em is a poetic story steeped in history, about those most impacted by the violence and their later accomplishments. In many ways, Em is perhaps Kim Thúy's most personal book, the one in which she trusts her readers enough to share with them not only the pervasive love she feels but also the rage and the horror at what she and so many other children of the Vietnam War had to live through.
Written in Kim Thúy's trademark style, near to prose poetry, Em reveals her fascination with connection. Through the linked destinies of characters connected by birth and destiny, the novel zigzags between the rubber plantations of Indochina; daily life in Saigon during the war as people find ways to survive and help each other; Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War; and today's global nail polish and nail salon industry, largely driven by former Vietnamese refugees--and everything in between. Here are human lives shaped both by unspeakable trauma and also the beautiful sacrifices of those who made sure at least some of these children survived.
About the Author
Born in Saigon in 1968, Kim Thúy left Vietnam with the boat people when she was 10 and settled in Quebec with her family. As well as being a writer, she has degrees in translation and law and has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner. Her debut novel, Ru, was published in 2009 and became a bestseller in Quebec and in France, garnering several prestigious literary awards, including a Governor General's Award in 2010. Translation rights have been sold in twenty-eight languages. She has also written À toi (Yours), with Pascal Janovjak, Mãn and Vi--in addition to a cookbook, Le Secret des Vietnamiennes (Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen).
SHEILA FISCHMAN is the award-winning translator of some 150 contemporary novels from Quebec. In 2008 she was awarded the Molson Prize in the Arts. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec. She lives in Montreal.
“Just like tender, strong and graceful Vietnamese silk threads, Kim Thúy masterfully weaves us through Vietnam’s 20th-century history while binding us to the lives of its people so that their experiences expand our worldview. EM is an original, innovative, poetic and haunting novel that deserves to be read, shared, studied and discussed.”
– Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, internationally best-selling author of The Mountains Sing.
"A constellation of connected characters provides a snapshot of Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora in North America from French colonization to life after the war. ... A brief, moving meditation on the nature of truth, memory, humanity, and violence: a powerful work of art."
– Kirkus Reviews
“Expertly handled by her long-time translator, Sheila Fischman, the text juxtaposes horror and beauty to lasting effect. The prose is poised and elegant even when describing atrocity. … This is Thúy’s most ambitious and affecting book yet. Both sprawling and intimate, Em amplifies her storytelling and is a moving memorial to survivors and those who perished alike.”
– Quill & Quire, starred review (Canada)