Skylight Books, Los Angeles, “Readings by Lan P. Duong and Diana Khoi Nguyen”
The title of this debut collection, Nothing Follows, is reappropriated from a government document establishing the beginning of a refugee family’s time in the United States. At every coordinate of their lives, the refugee family provides affidavits, letters, and reams of paperwork as they work to beseech those in power to grant them “family reunification” visas for those they had to leave behind in 1975 after the fall of Saigon.
Nothing Follows draws from the genres of memoir and poetry. Written from a young girl’s perspective, the center of this world is a military father, an absent mother, sisters who come and go, broken brothers, and friends she meets in San José. With each place the book travels through–from Butler, Pennsylvania, to San José, California–we see that racism, objectification, and sexual violence permeate the realities of the narrator and those close to her. In marking the journey, Lan Duong recreates the portraits of the girl’s friends and family and maps out refugee girlhoods. Spiked with violence, pleasure, and longing, these refuges are questionable sanctuaries for those refugee girls who have grown up during the 1980s in the aftermath of war.
Ghost Of is a mourning song, not an exorcism or un-haunting of that which haunts, but attuned attention, unidirectional reaching across time, space, and distance to reach loved ones, ancestors, and strangers. By working with, in, and around the photographs that her brother left behind (from which he cut himself out before his death), Nguyen wrestles with what remains: memory, physical voids, and her family captured around an empty space.