One Book One Island author explains her love for Canada

One Book One Island author explains her love for Canada

Reading Town PEI continues all week with a number of well-known authors visiting the Island.

Kim Thúy's book Ru tells the story of her family's journey as boat people from Vietnam to a refugee camp, and then to the welcoming arms of the people of Quebec and a new life.

Ru was the 2015 winner of Canada Reads, won a Governor General's Award for fiction, and now is the choice of the "One Book One Island" program in P.E.I. libraries, which promotes a featured book that all Islanders can enjoy.

"How great is that?" she said to Angela Walker, host of CBC's Mainstreet. "What a great concept. And that's a very big island too that you have."

It's her first time to P.E.I., and Ru was the first book she had ever written, done for fun on a work break.

A friend took it to a publisher, who accepted it immediately, and it is now in print in 27 countries.

"I was so surprised, I thought it was just a story for myself, or maybe for my children, so that they knew what happened," she said. "So that's why you don't have my whole name, you only have my first name on the book. I thought that nobody would read it, so what's the point of putting down my whole name. So know I'm stuck with only putting down a first name, like Madonna, you know?"

Kim Thúy and her family fled Vietnam in 1978 as boat people.

They first went to Malaysia, and then were selected by Canada as immigrants, and she moved to Quebec as a 10-year-old.

The book is her thank-you note to the people of Quebec and Canada who welcomed her.

"The image of that first moment is still very vivid in my mind," she said. "When we arrived in Granby, which is a small city which is about an hour's drive from Montreal, my feeling was that the whole city was there to greet us. And my feeling was that we were never greeted as an immigrant but almost as an adopted child.

"In the camp we didn't have electricity or water, so of course we didn't have any mirrors. And the first time I saw myself again was in their eyes. And I had never been that beautiful than on that day. And I have never been that beautiful again. Nobody has looked at me with such purity again."

Although she was a first-time author, and communicates in a second language, she has had no trouble getting across how she feels about her experience coming to Canada.

"I've never been an immigrant in this country because we were embraced from the first moment. That's how I see Canada, that you waited for me, you wanted us, and you have raised us as children."

Kim Thúy has two public events on P.E.I. Wednesday, May 3. She'll be in Charlottetown at 1:30 p.m. at the Dr.-J-Edmond Arsenault Library in the Carrefour Centre, and at 7 p.m. at the Cornwall Public Library.