Archive for November, 2014

It’s my birthday! Happy 39th to me! One way I’ve decided to celebrate is by making the Kindle version of my book free for a limited time. So tell all your friends, and if you haven’t already gotten a copy, go get yours now before the promotion period ends.

When I started the publishing journey with this book over two years ago, I was so excited to have numerous agents thrilled to represent my work. Even though I had all the skills and networks to have moderate success with publishing my own memoir, I decided to go the traditional route and have it sent out to publishers in the hopes of getting a decent contract. My agent has been incredible in guiding me through this process, and my book has landed in the laps of several reputable editors. However, as much as they loved the book, they could not get it past the true gatekeepers of the publishing industry–the marketing people. I was told that though my voice was fresh and raw and my story was compelling, the market already had too many “cancer memoirs.” My book was boiled down to those two words, and anything else that makes it unique, timely, and nuanced was made invisible, erased. Also, what these responses say to me is that the “cancer memoir” is done and over, nothing more to be said about it, we’ve heard these stories too much already, unless you’re a celebrity–which I find completely ridiculous. So I made the leap and decided to move forward with publishing the book through my publishing company, Rabbit Fool Press.

The one regret that I have with spending time going the traditional publishing route and not trusting my gut initially with self-publishing is that my father passed away before seeing the book in print. He was excited for me to write this and tell our family’s stories, but he died the day my agent told me that the book was ready to be sent out to the publishers. He did manage to read the first few chapters after he was diagnosed–and he laughed appreciatively. That was awesome. I’m glad he was at least able to do that.

So on my birthday, and in honour of my dad who passed away from cancer which was thought to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange, we are making the Kindle version available free for a limited time. If you agree that this story is worth being heard–that other cancer stories are worth being heard–then share this status with everyone you can, download the book, consider buying the paperback, ask your public library to purchase the book, teach the book, and come out to see me when I do a book tour in Spring 2015. This book’s success depends on grassroots efforts of the communities with which I am aligned–communities that I know all care about making silenced and untold stories known and heard.


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Vietnam, February 2015

Rickshaws. Rice paddies. An old war. Napalm.
“The Vietnamese people are so nice, so accommodating,”
I’m always told,
White people reassuring me that my Vietnamese half isn’t inherently demonic,
like the American soldiers were told. No—
“They are not people. They are things that you must kill by any means.
They are not human.”
And that was Dad’s first memory of Vietnam.
Me—I don’t have memories yet, but I’m sure glad those people are so nice.

Eagle Brand medicated green oil. Chay-yaw. Buddhas and their altar. My ghost family.
“You’re American like your daddy,” Mom tells me. “Your sister—she Vietnam.”
I can’t prove otherwise,
my tongue and throat conspire against me when I speak Vietnamese as I know how.
But I try to show Mom how much I like durian…
just like White people who’ve been to Vietnam on vacation or for research,
how they say they’re experts in durian and nuoc mam. They tell me this
after they try to make small talk on planes, asking
“Where are you from?”
And I say, “I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but now I live in Canada.”
And they say, “No, but where are you really from?”

Alcohol. PTSD. Heaven and earth and reincarnation.
Temples 90 minutes away. Church with an outhouse down the road,
by the crick.
I don’t know how it’s going to be when I go.
I’ve gone there in my mind so many goddamn times,
my migraines and insomnia from all that jetlag catching up,
but I know it’s not the same.
I just know there’s a demon I have to face.
I don’t know if it’s me.
I don’t know what it is.

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That porch swing, white paint chipping and flaking,
those two rusty chains and the hooks that hold them up,
the chains also hold up 90% certainty that we won’t crash
when we sit down, that we won’t splinter upon impact
on the oil-stained concrete…that swing swung us back and forth,
between the past in the back, almost hitting the cherry Chevy Nova parked
behind it, and the future at the front of our extended legs,
toes en pointe toward the hills basking in the orange ooze
of the sinking sleepy sun.

That porch swing was our time machine.
We got older and younger all at once with each launch.
Sometimes we became timeless,
or forever.
But we knew we’d always have to land at some point,
and get up,
and walk away.

Perfection of everything swung on that swing.
If I wanted to, if I could, I’d unhook the swing,
carry it across lands to find different rusty hooks to attach it to,
and it would be something “different,” as Pappy would say
in his sweet feathery husky twang,
to fly into the past and future in other spots,
but I would never be able to find that hill,
that sunset,
that cherry Chevy Nova and the oil stains the car tattooed
on the porch.
That swing, there, will always hold us up.
We’ll never fall down in time.

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