There is good literary news for San Francisco. Well, for everyone, really, since it is, after all, a new book with no limitations on audience reach or influence. But for San Francisco there is the chance to meet one of the most charming, aware and adaptive men I know. Author, Andrew Lam, who came here at the age of 8 from Vietnam, will be at the California Historical Society, at 678 Mission Street, tomorrow night Friday March 1st at 6 PM. He will be reading from his new book Birds of Paradise Lost, a collection of short stories that focus on the lives of those who fled Vietnam to make a new life (and often a new “them” as well) in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Leaving one’s homeland forever to flee war and atrocities has to be a very difficult task. How does a young boy survive such a ripping of the threads that connect him to his own people and history? To hear Andrew tell how he set about to become an American boy is to understand something of a mysterious transformation. Even though Andrew’s latest offering is a book of fiction, the stories come from what Andrew knows first hand so we can learn real lessons about people with whom we live side by side but about whom we may know very little.
Andrew’s writing is so present and so informative, so filled with poetry of daily life that I was drawn into the stories as if I were family. Andrew hands us a rare gift with this collection of stories that let us into the hearts and minds of people whose identity for many of us had been simply what they saw on the 6:00 news, a televised war. For many Americans, Andrew has put a face to a name. And, the face of Vietnam in San Francisco is a very beautiful valuable, intelligent, hard-working and creative one.
In his mission to bring to new shores the reality, depth and cultural significance of the Vietnamese people, Andrew will be embarking on an extended book tour with stops in Boston, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and 6 other cities. “But,” he says, “it’s always more fun to read in one’s own city.”
You will see that San Francisco and Andrew are meant for each other. The magic and talent of Andrew takes many forms, but one that charms me enormously is that this man born 7,868 miles and a world culture away is so clearly and enthusiastically a San Franciscan who, at this stage of life, has blended his Vietnamese and San Franciscan essences into a powerful modern reality.
I feel newly welcomed into the 21st century every time I talk to Andrew. See what you feel when you hear him. I’ll let you know about his next March reading as the time approaches.
From me to you with love in the air,
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