The figurative language of Kim Thuy….

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes and metaphors from Kim Thuy….

In her book that is a cross between a novel, a memoir and poetry, writer Kim Thuy (pictured above) tells the evocative, heart-wrenching story of a Vietnamese refugee family. Her award-winning book is called, Ru, a word that means “lullaby” in Vietnamese.

Thuy was 10 when she fled Vietnam with her parents and two brothers. After a stay in a refugee camp in Malaysia, the family qualified as “boat people,” and arrived in Granby, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Thuy eventually pursued studies at the University of Montreal where she completed degrees in linguistics and translation, then in law. At the same time, she opened a restaurant in Montreal to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to her new country. When the restaurant closed Thuy began to write.

Ru won the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award. I found the book so moving, I’m certain I’ll read it again. Here is some of the figurative language I most admired:

  • I came into the world during the Tet Offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of machine guns.
  • The story of the little girl who was swallowed up by the sea after she’d lost her footing while walking along the edge spread through the foul-smelling belly of the boat like an anaesthetic or laughing gas.
  • If I had known what it meant to love, I wouldn’t have had children, because once we love, we love forever, like Uncle Two’s wife, Step-aunt Two, who can’t stop loving her gambler son, the son who is burning up the family fortune like a pyromaniac.
  • At night, every night, my last image was of colours suspended across the room like Tibetan prayer flags.
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