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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Chin

So Grateful – This Reviewer Really Got It!

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Sending my writing out into the world has always been heart opening and humbling, in equal measure.

With Heart Bones, it was no different.

When it went into the world, I steeled myself for criticism and non-understanding. I also opened myself to affirmation. I’ve been touched by the fan letters that came back saying I’d gotten it, that whole Vietnam diaspora experience; I’ve also been chastened by folks who told me they couldn’t relate to any of my characters, that my story was totally unreal. There’ve even been readers who questioned by standing to write the story I did. The warm, the critical, the supportive, I had expected it all.  It was part and parcel of sending that bit of myself into the world.

As for the professional reviewers, there was a good balance of judicious commentary, praise and put down. Very satisfactory, my publishers thought. I even got shortlisted for a literary prize. Somehow though, through it all, the uncomfortable feeling that none of the professionals really understood wanted to do with the book persisted. Then, just around Thanksgiving, I came across a review by Lucy Van of Peril, the Magazine for Asian-Australian Art and Culture.

Lucy Van is a Vietnamese Australian poet, born and raised in Australia. Despite her bi-racial heritage and her writerly pre-occupations, she’d never read any Vietnam War fiction. And then, As the Heart Bones Break fell on her lap. She said all the proper things about fabula and narrative, how the 2nd person re-telling irked, how the story might have been structured better. It was all true. None of that bothered me. The book was published and gone, nothing I could do to improve it further.

Lucy also said the book was something entirely new to her. She’d expected another Western mediated narrative. She wrote how she had nothing to compare the book to because such a Vietnamese narrative was outside her experience. She might have been the child of a Vietnamese father, but like my Vietnamese husband and in-laws, he had never spoken about it.

I am glad Heart Bones found her. I’m glad she identified with the “steadfastly unconventional” geography of the story, one which is true even if not typical of most diasporic retellings. I loved that she understood how the book “anticipated a globalized Asian subjectivity” that’s surely evolving across the Pacific.

It’s something to be very grateful for, to know something you’ve written has reached the very person you wrote it for, even though at the point of writing, you hadn’t known  who that dear reader might be.

Oh My!


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