Writer Quyên Gavoye. Photo courtesy of the writer
Quyên Gavoye, an overseas Vietnamese writer living in France, received the Cricket Prize in the Cricket Desire category by the ''Sport and Culture' newspaper this year. Her two award-winning novels, 'Emma thảm hoạ'' (Disaster Emma) and 'Biệt đội thám tử' (The Detective Squad), were published by the Kim Đồng Publishing House and achieved widespread acclaim. Quyên shares her journey and upcoming plans.
Inner Sanctum: Did you write these two books to teach children about life skills, or did you have another intention?
While writing these two novels, I observed my two children a lot, including what occurs in their everyday lives at school, at home, and in the neighbourhood, and how they interact with each other and with us.
In addition, as a cultural heritage expert in Besancon city in eastern France, I have the opportunity to collaborate with the city's Department of Education on socio-cultural education projects each year, allowing me to interact with children regularly and observe how they resolve conflicts through the innocence of their age and their surroundings.
My first purpose is to help children find happiness through reading. On the other hand, because the two books are about the lives of foreign children, I want Vietnamese youngsters to learn more about other countries and cultures. Finally, I want the kids to find something of themselves in the characters after they finish the book.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you decide to publish these two books in Việt Nam? There seems to be a desire to share your home country with parents and children and your life in France?
That's right, I've lived in France for a long time and am also a mother of young kids, so I'm always eager to share habits and educational approaches with other parents as a reference.
For me, the best experience in educating children comes from unfamiliar environments, and we must know how to select and apply knowledge and experience.
There's nothing better for teaching and learning than a good laugh while getting the point across.
French parents frequently read to their children (even when they already know how to read). When their kids are older, parents still read books with them.
I believe that even if it is a book created for kids, parents can learn many helpful topics to discuss with their children and gain an insight into their minds.
That's why I chose to publish these books in Việt Nam.
Cover of the book 'Disaster Emma' (right) and 'The Detective Squad' (left). Photo courtesy of the Kim Đồng Publishing House
Inner Sanctum: Are these two novels going to be published in France? How do your friends and family feel about it?
While writing these two books, I sat down and chatted to my children, explaining that I planned to retell their ordinary lives and embellish them into stories.
Emma's "disasters" in the book, for example, are often my son Lucas's daily disasters, while the detective squad's stories are based on some of my daughter's friends. However, the characters are switched around throughout the two books to add to the hilarity.
My two children burst out laughing as I told them the story, and my husband was overjoyed.
I'm currently hatching a project to publish these books in France (not this year) but in the future, if all goes well. I also intend to bring Vietnamese literature to France. I am currently translating a novel, and if successful, this will be the starting point of my project to introduce Vietnamese literature in France.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us more about your life and your job in France?
We are currently living in a small city near the Swiss border. My children are now a few years older than the youngsters in the book, but they continue to inspire me because I want to create an intimate image in which any child feels like they are a part of the character.
I'm currently a cultural heritage professional in the city of Besançon.
Even though we have not been back to Việt Nam for the previous two years because of the pandemic, my children are well-versed in Vietnamese culture. My aim was that my novels will one day serve as a link between my children and their mother's homeland.
Inner Sanctum: Is this a way for you to promote Vietnamese culture using these books?
I often tell my friends that France is my heart because that is where my family is, and Việt Nam is my blood because that is where I was born and raised.
No one can live without blood or a heart, so I'm very proud to introduce Việt Nam to my French friends and likewise pleased to introduce France to the Vietnamese.
Whether at work or in everyday life, I'm always proud to define myself as a Vietnamese and state that I'm from Việt Nam.
For my children and my French-born husband, I still try to bring Vietnamese culture into our daily lives. For example, we use chopsticks instead of knives and forks to eat rice, and when we have guests over, we make pho [beef noodle].
Even though these things don't seem like much, they help my kids and my husband learn more about Việt Nam. VNS