Hello Inspired Readers!
I’ve been buried in boxes of books and mountains of excitement, I’m finally organized enough to share with you our new arrivals! Click on the subtitles which will take you directly to VietCan’s website.
Did you know that Thầy Thích Nhất Hạnh was a Vietnamese monk who was exciled by both North and South Vietnam for speaking out about peace after the Vietnam war? He is considered to be the main inspiration for engaged Buddhism, applying Buddhist ethics, meditation practices and teachings to contemporary suffering and injustice. He has also greatly influenced Western practices of Buddhism, therefore given the title of “the father of mindfulness”.
As mindfulness is a popular topic explored in many children’s books, I thought it was fitting to read from the founder of mindfulness himself. I’m so happy to introduce a rare bilingual book written by Thich Nhat Hanh called Each breath a smile – mỗi hơi thở một nụ cười. The title uses his signature calligraphy, which is a form of meditation in itself. This book teaches children to breathe and smile through meditation– such simple but profound ideas!
Be sure to browse through VietCan’s selection of Vietnamese children’s books written by Thich Nhat Hanh as well. These are beautiful collectible hardcovers worth their weight in gold (and also very expensive to ship - in case you're wondering why the price!)
One lesson I have learned the hard way (shipping too many books from Vietnam) is the content don’t always reflect today's values. I decided to set aside some books that perpetuate stereotypical roles of men and women – such as mom cooks and cleans, and dad works so hard he’s my hero. Some books have atrocious translations, so I don’t sell those either. Some just have outdated information and abhorrently ignorant comments I can’t endorse the content under VietCan’s name.
So an area of focus is finding translated English classics/popular books. We do live in an English-speaking society after all, and I’d like to think of it as one stone killing two birds when our children read these well-known books in Vietnamese.
Tất tần tật về cảm xúc (All About Feelings) by Felicity Brooks and Frankie Allen
A word of caution. While Dr. Seuss' books are considered classics, his political cartoons depicted highly racist images of Japanese people to justify war against Japan for example. As my goal is to provide books on cultural diversity and inclusion, I contemplated whether to pull these off of my website. However, I would not be able to engage in any meaningful research and conversation on proper representation if readers did not know about this, nor read these books. In fact, I'm simply in awe that the translators were able to preserve the essence of these books, that I would like VietCan readers to enjoy the positive aspects, while critically think about negative aspects that make it into worldwide popular books.
Dr. Seuss had visited Japan in 1953, and after having witnessed the atrocities of the Hiroshima bombing, wrote "Horton Hears a Who" as a formal apology for his deeply damaging anti-Japanese depictions. You will notice the repeated sentence "A person is a person no matter how small." He dedicated the book to “My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan.”
Even highly talented and celebrated people make horrible mistakes, what's important is that they make amends and try to right a wrong. Tonight, I will go to bed with a lighter heart and enjoying Horton hears a Who translated into Vietnamese Voi Ho-tơn nghe thấy người Ai , having learned this about Dr. Seuss.
Another area I’m working hard on procuring are English books by Vietnamese authors. I’m so proud to be finding more and more critically acclaimed Vietnamese authors whose work are enjoyed by so many families.
This month I’m highlighting Vietnamese-Canadian author Thao Lam, and I’m giving away TWO copies of her signed book The Paper Boat. Be sure to read more about it in my GIVEAWAY blog post that will end SOON!
Here are some authors I have been able to secure some books from:
Muon Thi Van: If you have read One Is A Lot and If You Were Night, great news! Muon herself has informed me to expect the Vietnamese translations to come out in October 2022. I had a lot of trouble translating these books for Zoephi when we read them together, so I'm really happy the Vietnamese translations are in the works. In the meantime, check these books out in English.
Another title by Muon that is a must read is Wishes, having received numerous praises. It is lightly written on a heavy topic of escaping your own country in times of war.
Thao Lam: featured in VietCan's very first giveaway, is such a nice person to talk to. While I'm only currently able to carry The Paper Boat, I hope to source her other fantastic books as well. I really love how she tells the stories of refugees through her unique collage art paper cut artwork.
Dr. Nhung N. Tran-Davies: another Vietnamese-Canadian author, Dr. Tran-Davies has written The Doll and Ten Cents a Pound. Similar to Muon's Wishes and Thao Lam's The Paper Boat, Nhung's book The Doll tells the story about the experience of Boat People from yet another perspective. This is such a complex topic that I never thought I could explore with my daughter as early as age 2, so I'm very glad these books exist as an effective way for me to tell her granddad's story, along with millions of other refugees.
On the other hand, Ten Cents a Pound is a story about a poor mom who harvests coffee beans for a meagre wage, to enable her daughter to fly beyond the confines of their village, to pursue her dreams. This is another relatable story, seeing my own parents going from professionals to laborers moving to Canada. Dad was working as a night janitor, my mom was harvesting farmed mushrooms in their early days as immigrants - to send me off to pursuing my dreams.
Dr. Nguyen Phan Que Mai: This is a recommendation for adults! Although I think older teens would also appreciate this book with strong female leads. While she's a celebrated Vietnamese poet, her debut English novel The Mountain Sings is an International Best Seller. Again, I couldn't stop crying for many, many pages into the book. As a mom, I'm seeing a huge gap in my knowledge of the history surrounding the Vietnam war, and this historical fiction really highlights the human loss and suffering of war. My grandma used to tell me similar stories of loss and violence to her own family members, and I finally understand what she was saying after reading this book. I definitely don't give myself enough down time to read books JUST for me, and I'm so glad I picked up The Mountain Sings for me time.
Click here to enjoy browsing through our entire collection of Vietnamese uuthors!
I plan to be connecting with you through these emails for a more regular/monthly basis. Do forgive me, as small as this bookstore is, it does consume all of my thought and time. I hope you find the selection as delightful as I do.
Tam Nguyen at VietCan Books.