|: Writer Kim Thuy and her book Ru have won a major Canadian book competition. — Photo dantri.com.vn
HA NOI (VNS) — The tale of a Vietnamese woman's difficult journey from war-torn Sai Gon to a crowded Malaysian refugee camp and then to Quebec, where she struggled to adjust to a new life, has won the Canadian Broadcasating Commission's book competition called Canada Reads.
The book entitled Ru by writer Kim Thuy was chosen by celebrity panellists as the book for Canadians to read in 2015.
Canada Reads, an annual award broadcast on CBC, includes two categories for works in English and French. This year the theme of a "battle of the books" competition was One Book To Break Barriers.
During Canada Reads, five famous personalities champion five different books, each champion extolling the merits of one of the titles. The debate is broadcast over a series of five programs.
At the end of each episode, the panellists vote one title out of the competition until only one book remains. This book is then billed as the book that all of Canada should read.
Toronto International Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey successfully championed Thuy's novel Ru. He beat out four other Canadian personalities who were each defending a book in the 14th annual contest on CBC's radio, TV and online platforms.
For Bailey, the book triggered an emotional response which helped to fuel his impassioned debate.
"I came in with a lot of arguments that were very rational," he said on CBC. "[But] in the end, I had to try and pull from my own heart... I connected with Ru on that level."
Bailey, whose family came to Canada from Barbados, also argued that the book's poetic style would be capable of opening the hearts of Canadians who could be suffering "compassion fatigue" involving tens of thousands of newcomers.
There are incredibly dramatic stories sometimes that bring people into Canada," Bailey said. "Those should be respected and that should be made a part of the Canadian fabric."
Thuy's debut involves strong feelings about her homeland. Published in 2009, the artfully spare autobiographical story won international critical acclaim and several literary awards, including the 2010 Governor General's Literary Award for French-language fiction and France's 2010 Grand Prix RTL-Lire.
The panel ultimately decided that Ru was the best story to challenge stereotypes and shift readers' perspectives.
It was described as a superb book, uniquely styled in a series of short chapters. Each of them stands on its own as a stunning piece of writing, but taken together, they form a coherent yet dreamy narrative tracing the experience of a young girl who leaves her home in Viet Nam during the American War.
It has already been published in 20 countries and territories.
"It's incredible," Thuy said on CBC. "I don't know how I feel, I just feel so far from home. I just want to be home today," said the 46-year-old writer.
"I can't believe that the book, inspired by her own life, could gain the notable achievement," she said.
Thuy was born in 1968 as Nguyen An Tinh and ended up in Canada with her family at the age of 10. She graduated from Montreal University and worked as a translator, lawyer, tailor, and chef. Now she spends her time writing. — VNS