Viet Nam News -
By Thu Anh
HCM CITY— After a hiatus of several years, talented writer Đoàn Thạch Biền has written two books, both of which were released in HCM City this week.
While the 70-page book Chao (Fermented Tofu) includes eight short stories, the 107-page Mùa Hè Khắc Nghiệt (Hard Summer) is a novella. Both tell stories about girls and boys at high school who discover life and love.
The book features teen loves, hopes and dreams, written with the author’s typical imagination and flair.
Điền told his fans at the book-signing ceremony in HCM City that he was involved in writing books aimed at teenagers because he “wanted to create a dreamlike world for youngsters, who believe in the best things about life and people”.
More than 11,000 copies of the two books have been printed and distributed by the HCM City Culture and Arts Publishing House and Phương Nam Book.
According to the Phương Nam Book, the company signed an exclusive contract to publish several books of Biền, some of them released before 1975.
"I’m a fan of Biền’s books. I introduced his new books for my younger siblings and their friends. I think his writing style will be popular with teenagers today because they are a mix of reality and romanticism,” said Trần Hòa Bình, a final year student at the HCM City University of Architecture.
"Young readers will see themselves in every single page of Điền’s books. They will believe that the writer is their close friend and that he knows what they think and dream," he added.
Shortage of young-adult books
Recently, teenagers are turning to readily available Vietnamese and foreign adult books because good-quality books aimed at people of their age are sorely lacking.
Teacher Nguyễn Thanh Bình at the Ngô Sĩ Liên Secondary School in Tân Bình District, said that teenagers were not mature enough to fully understand the content in adult books, and thus may be negatively affected by it.
"I worry when some of my students become more excited about social relationships, money, crime and sex, as depicted in adult books by foreign and Vietnamese writers such as E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Hamlet Trương’s 12 Cách Yêu (12 Ways to Fall in Love), than about schoolwork and friends,” she said.
“Some parents allow their teenagers to indulge in adult books because they think the books are suitable,” she said.
The dearth of age-appropriate material leaves teenagers with very few choices for their needs.
“I can’t force my daughters into reading comics aimed at children such as Doreamon and Crayon Shin-chan. Books for teenagers are few and far between. Most suffer from boring stories,” said Trần Thùy Trâm, who has two teenage children.
Nguyễn Nhật Ánh, one of the country’s very few writers involved in producing teenager books, said that efforts should be made to change this attitude.
“Writers and printers should work together to increase the number of books for teenagers on the market,” he said.
The Phương Nam Book company plans to release two other books by Biền, Sắc Như Mắt Phượng (Sharp like a Bird’s Eye) and Buổi Chiều Gió Và Những Vật Cũ (Windy Evening and Old Things), both featuring teen characters, in the near future.
“We aim to provide more titles for teenagers this summer,” a Phương Nam Book official said.
Another publisher, the Kim Đồng Publishing House, has also contracted well-known authors, including young writers, to create books for teenagers.
It has released a collection of five books featuring short stories by young writers that were published in Hoa Học Trò (Flowers of Students), a magazine for secondary school students, between 1998 and 2008.
Some books now in draft form are also slated for publication in the near future. Not all hope is lost for Vietnamese teenagers who love to read. -- VNS