Memories Of Tragedy Stay With Author Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Vietnamese author Nguyen Phan Que Mai grew up amid the devastation of war. Her memories of that time, and her family's experiences, became the inspiration for her new novel, The Mountains Sing.
Ngyuen Phan Que Mai grew up amid the devastation of the Vietnam War. She worked as a street vendor before going to college in Australia and becoming a writer. Source: Vu Thi Van Anh

Author Nguyen Phan Que Mai is a poet and world traveler whose first novel, The Mountains Sing, is about four generations of a Vietnamese family enduring many hardships — something she understands well.

The 47-year-old writer was born in North Vietnam, but grew up in a small village in the South, destitute, hungry and horrified by the ruins of war. "As a child, I saw so many people with missing limbs," she recalls. "I saw mothers without children, people committing suicide because their loved ones didn't come back."

Those images stayed, which centers on a grandmother and granddaughter. She also modeled one character on her uncle, who fought against the Americans in the 1960s and '70s.

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