Military men and wandering women, thieves and artists, friends and sisters full of spit and fight…
Such are the characters that populate a young girl’s world in San José in the 1980s. Written from her perspective, this collection of poetry narrates her family’s arrival to the U.S. in 1975. It narrates their resettlement as they move from Pennsylvania to California during Silicon Valley’s high-tech boom. With each city and street that the poems crisscross, the girl and those around her experience racism, objectification, and sexual violence. In marking the places that she has been, her stories map out the coordinates of a refugee girlhood, one that is spiked with brutality, joy, and longing all the same.
The title of this debut collection, Nothing Follows, is taken from state documents, which inaugurate the refugee family’s encounters with US bureaucracy when they first arrive. In these letters, this phrase marks the beginning and end of information related to the family’s biography, medical history, and requests for “family reunification” for those left behind after the fall of Sài Gòn.
Giving lie to these words, what proceeds in these pages is a delicate, fulsome unspooling of the family’s emotional, political lives, which travel with them from Việt Nam to the US, and back again. Intermixing memoir and poetry, Nothing Follows is an accounting of everything that follows in the wake of war.
Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, Texas Tech University Press
Have you ever cried upon reading something because it felt so achingly true? That was my experience of the opening poem, “San José, 1980.” Through the eyes of a child “full of spit & spite” and wonder, reading this collection of poems arranged into three acts, we experience growing up in a life that is, in Lan Duong’s phrasing, “lovely, but brutal.” To render power from a harsh reality, to craft words that sting like ớt and then to use them to love, is nothing short of extraordinary.
—Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
Nothing Follows is a gift to the sisterhood of women who have suffered and survived not only the legacies of war but the travesties of an unequal peace. It is a fearless collection of poems that reckon with the complicated pasts of broken-hearted people, and in its incredible intimacy and with courageous fire, this collection holds fast to the ashes of love and family. The language is fresh, the perspective is raw, and the intellectual scope is vast in its references and renderings of the American West.
—Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet
Lan Duong has gifted us an essential gut-punch of a poetry collection. Nothing Follows is a work informed by family, nation, and war, while shattering our preconceived notions of all those things. I feel particularly thankful for these poems, as a fellow Viet American writer: to witness our struggle and our survival and our defiance rendered with such care and such beauty. I only wish this collection were around when I was younger. I’m so glad it exists now in the world.
—Bao Phi, author of A Different Pond and Thousand Star Hotel
Brave and evocative in its return to girlhood, Lan Duong’s Nothing Follows powerfully looks back at the trials of adolescence in a refugee household where the shadows of war, displacement and unspoken grief continue to haunt the periphery. Through poems reflecting on painful family histories, challenges of puberty, and the days of youth and wild freedom, Duong combines striking language with rich detail to assemble a courageous narrative. This is a collection that is ready to tell and confront all.
—Mai Der Vang, author of Afterland and Yellow Rain