Tag Archives: Vietnamese Boat People

What do Michelle Obama and I have in common?

We are both releasing our books on the same day November 19. I can’t tell you a thing about her book on the other hand I can tell you a lot about mine:

Ring of Freedom is about a Vietnamese family, the Vuongs, risking everything they had to seek the freedom only offered in the United States of America.

According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, an estimated 250,000 died attempting to escape the communist/socialist Vietnam. My personal opinion that figure is low.

At the time, the Vuong family started their escape they were an affluent Vietnamese family, lead by the patriarch of the family Doctor Toan Tu Vuong. By their final escape attempt, they had to bury money and gold from their in-laws, turn the gold into rings to better hide and sow both the rings and money into their clothing to escape with only the clothes on their back. By this time, everything else had been stolen from them except their desire to be free. Please pick up their story on November 19.

Ring of Freedom – My latest writing project – a Memoir from a Journal

Last year, I was introduced to a story unlike anything I have ever written or contemplated. A friend of mine in Charlotte, Jack (J. C.) Lightner, told me about the family of his wife’s colleague who escaped from Communist Vietnam. Naturally, I was intrigued. As some of you know, I have been writing a series on the causes and effects of the Vietnam Conflict. This would be the best example I could’ve hoped for of the final cause and effect.

Last fall, J. C. introduced me to a family member, Dao Vuong. She gave me an overview of what her family had persevered to come to the United States. I was hooked on the story. When J.C. first discussed the project with me, the patriarch of the family, Dr. Toan Tu Vuong, had written a journal about his life, but it was in Vietnamese and he and his wife lived in New Orleans. We tabled the project until we could find someone to translate his writings. Then, by the grace of God, the family moved to Charlotte, and he translated his own writings to English. Now the project was back on, full speed. Here is the book cover:

The first of this year, the translated journal was provided to me in a MS Word document. Dr. Vuong’s journal covered his life from a young child in Vietnam until late in his professional career in the United States. After discussing with several of my trusted advisors on how to convert a journal to a memoir, I started. As I do when writing historical fiction, I used actual historical events to build the timeline of the story around. To provide different perspective and to add more detail to the story, I interviewed the five adult children as well as Toan’s wife Nha-Y, her sister, and a close family friend.

I read the first chapter at my writers group and received some tremendous input. They suggested a radical change to hook you, the reader, on the Vuong’s determination to come to the United States.

The memoir begins just before the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists and follows the family—and their personal trials and tribulations—as they arrive in the United States. It continuously shows the sacrifices Toan and Nha-Y made for the betterment of their children.

The end of the book includes biographies of each family members to show that despite the dramatic events they endured (as detailed in the memoir), all of them achieved at the highest levels.

I invite you to pick up this memoir and experience the Vuong family’s journey as they come to the United States to be free. A pre-sale will be available soon, and I will keep everyone posted for a release date.

 

 

Good Morning, Vietnam

Sound Bite

 

Those of us who have seen the hilarious movie, Good Morning, Vietnam, starring Robin Williams, remember the title words. Sometimes they just make you laugh as you flashback to a scene from that 1987 movie. Robin Williams portrays Adrian Cronauer, a real-life DJ during the Vietnam Conflict. But, Robin Williams’ funny ad libs represented Williams more than Cronauer. While doing my research, I got off on this tangent and learned the movie’s producer and director would not let Williams meet Cronauer before the movie was finished, fearing that instead of bringing forth his natural humor, Williams would accurately portray Cronauer. You see, they had rewritten Cronauer’s  unsuccessful screenplay to take advantage of Williams’ talents.

I mention this because, as many of you know, I’m writing a series of novels on the Vietnam Conflict. My most recently completed manuscript is with an editor now. My newest project is about a real-life Vietnamese family and their escape from the Communist regime after the fall of South Vietnam. The patriarch of the family, a Vietnamese doctor, kept a journal about his life, including his family’s escape. I’m converting his family story from a journal to a memoir. I was researching local Vietnamese radio and TV stations in Saigon during that time period when I was reminded of this tidbit.

Then the next tangent: I stumbled onto was a story some of you may already know, but I was totally unaware.

Pat Sajak, famous for two things, Wheel of Fortune and working with North Myrtle Beach’s Vanna White, was a Disc Jockey in the 1960s in Vietnam. He opened his morning radio show with “Good Morning, Vietnam.” According to Sajak’s own story, he was an Army Spc. 5th class and went to Vietnam as a financial clerk. He repeatedly requested that the Army allow him to become a DJ, like he had been in the States. Finally, they relented and sent him to Saigon. Here is a link to his story in Vietnam: https://www.uso.org/stories/283-wheel-of-fortune-host-pat-sajak-recounts-his-days-as-an-army-dj

Anyway, in the memoir I am working on, the project was presented by my friend and associate, Jack (J. C.) Lightner of Charlotte, North Carolina, who, like me grew up in Parkersburg/Vienna, West Virginia. He introduced me to the middle daughter of the Vietnamese family, and I was immediately wrapped up in their story. It has everything in it—failed escapes, hiding from Communist authorities, being separated during the escape, being crammed into a boat, encounters with pirates, and living in a refugee camp before arriving in America and making the most of their new lives.

While I am still researching local Vietnamese radio and TV stations for their memoir, I thought I would share some of the tangents that can drive a writer off the beaten path while seeking answers to humanize their writing.