I stared at the paperback and suspected immediately that the name Nguyen in Vietnam must be as common as the name Mensah in Ghana. ‘Ngu…yen’ I slowly stressed each syllable while completely throwing away any remote knowledge of the uselessness of some letters in some French words. Studying French for years had taught me better. Also how these Frenchies are able to ignore whole letters in words without pronouncing them while still physically maintaining the letters still baffles me. Anyway, so I finally found out later from my Vietnamese colleague (whose last name is also coincidentally Nguyen and who agreed to write a part of this post) that the name Nguyen is actually pronounced /W3n/! How interesting.
Outside the use of the Vietnamese war as the backdrop of this novel, the narrative also explores issues like race and identity in the transnational space. This post will discuss those aspects of these topical subjects through the lens of my Vietnamese colleague Mailé and through my lens also as a Ghanaian who can relate to the hybrid identity in the transnational space.