In today’s literary landscape, certain voices emerge with a profound ability to connect the intricate threads of our complex human experiences, and amidst the whispers of history comes a storyteller whose words resonate not only across continents but deep into the hearts of those who listen.
One such voice is that of Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, hailing from Việt Nam, whose global best-selling novels, The Mountains Sing and Dust Child, have captivated readers worldwide and garnered an outstanding display of literary distinctions.
Born in a small village in North Vietnam in 1973, Quế Mai’s journey from the Mekong Delta to becoming a celebrated author is a testament to her unyielding spirit.
Raised in a family of teachers and rice farmers, she experienced firsthand the hardships that shaped the narrative flow of her debut novel, The Mountains Sing—a lyrical ode to four generations of a Vietnamese family navigating the difficulties of life.
The pivotal turning point in her journey came in 1992 when a scholarship from the Australian government became the vessel that carried her dreams beyond the borders of Vietnam.
After graduating as the top student from Monash University’s Bachelor in Business Management and Business Administration, Quế Mai found herself standing at the threshold of a world she had only dared to dream of.
In 2016, aged thirty-three, she returned to her childhood dream of becoming a writer.
Quế Mai quickly earned recognition in her home country. Poetry became her compass, guiding her to the path that won her the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hanoi Writers Association and the First Prize in the Poetry Competition About 1,000 Years Hanoi.
Quế Mai’s latest novel, Dust Child, is a moving saga set against the backdrop of war-torn 1969 Vietnam and the present day.
Delving into family secrets, trauma, discrimination, hope, and forgiveness, the story carefully navigates the complex relationships between Vietnamese women and American soldiers during the war.
In her own words, Quế Mai explains, “I have seen how wars dehumanize people…I think in literature, there is so much in humanizing people so that we realize that we are all the same.”
Quế Mai’s storytelling prowess not only conveys the complexities of history but also paints a vivid picture of Vietnamese culture through poetry, music, customs, and food.
Told through alternating voices, the novel celebrates plural perspectives and serves as a choral performance echoing the resilience of the Vietnamese people and their land.
Quế Mai dedicates The Mountains Sing to her family members who perished in the tumultuous periods of Vietnamese history, making her work a deeply personal and emotional exploration of the impact of war on individuals and families.
As we lose ourselves in the pages of Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s novels, we go on an emotional pilgrimage, rediscovering the beauty in shared stories and the transformative power of forgiveness.
Through her prose, she invites us to reflect on our own lives, urging us to embrace compassion and understanding and to cultivate a future marked by unity and love.