Friday, June 4, 2010

Mai and Thanh and written memories

The journal that Mai reads, that belongs to her mother, was a really interesting and valuable part of the novel as it actually lets us see, as Mai also is, a little further into her mother and the way her mother thinks and why she is the way she is. Earlier in the novel Mai describes her mother’s wedding photo and how she observes that her mother was once beautiful, there is a sense of disconnect and inability to relate to her mother. The journal provides a chance for Mai to understand her mother on a deeper level.

Because Mai is so much younger than her mother the way she experiences her life in exile and the way she relates to her Vietnamese past is very different than the way her mother experiences and relates to those things. Mai’s comment about the wedding photo is an example of the way Mai can’t really link her mother’s Vietnamese past with who her mother is now. The journals provide insight into the past that Thanh embellishes on but the journals only serve to create more stress for Mai as she struggles to hold on to her past. The descriptions of Baba Quan and the land and the life that they came from only serves to awaken a longing in Mai for Vietnam and for answers to questions that there seem to be no answers for.



  1. I saw the journals as Thanh's only way to communitcate with her daugther as she is haunted by shame. She is so insecure about her lack of inner strength that she cannot even speak about it with her daugther. Upon reading the journals, she seems so much different than the person portrayed in the novel. She seems so articulate and strong. She is able to beatifully decribe some tragic moments. Her only strength is through writing as she is a very weak person.

  2. I wouldn't say that Thanh is a weak person. By channeling all of the things that she wanted to say to Mai into writing instead of telling her, I think she shows an incredible amount of self-restraint and strength. To me, it felt as though we saw Thanh through Mai's eyes in the narrative and we saw her as she really is through her writing. By containing unpleasant things within herself and in her writing, Thanh is taking on as much of their burden as possible without putting it on Mai. This is strength to me.

  3. The journals served an interesting function in Thanh and Mai's relationship. I still can't decide if it was a helpful or harmful tool. I think Thanh's only means of communicating and connecting with her daughter was the use of those journals but as a result I think Mai wasn't illuminated on who her mother was but instead further isolated because her mother had to resort to letter writing, instead of face to face,that turned out to be lies anyways.