Poems by Lan P. Duong
Publishing Date: April 2023
Have you ever cried upon reading something because it felt so achingly true? That was my experience of the opening poem, “San José, 1980.” Through the eyes of a child “full of spit & spite” and wonder, reading this collection of poems arranged into three acts, we experience growing up in a life that is, in Lan Duong’s phrasing, “lovely, but brutal.” To render power from a harsh reality, to craft words that sting like ớt and then to use them to love, is nothing short of extraordinary.—Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
The title of this debut collection, Nothing Follows, is reappropriated from a government document establishing the beginning of a refugee family’s time in the United States. At every coordinate of their lives, the refugee family provides affidavits, letters, and reams of paperwork as they work co beseech those in power to grant them “family reunification” visas for those they had to leave behind in 1975 after the fall of Saigon.
Nothing Follows draws from the genres of memoir and poetry. Written from a young girl’s perspective, the center of this world is a military father, an absent mother, sisters who come and go, broken brothers, and friends she meets in San José.
With each place the book travels through—from Butler, Pennsylvania, co San José, California—we see that racism, objectification, and sexual violence permeate the realities of the narrator and those close to her. In marking the journey, Lan Duong recreates the portraits of the girl’s friends and family and maps out refugee girlhoods.
Spiked with violence, pleasure, and longing, these refuges are questionable sanctuaries for those refugee girls who have grown up during the 1980s in the aftermath of war.
Nothing Follows is a gift to the sisterhood of women who have suffered and survived not only the legacies of war but the travesties of an unequal peace. It is a fearless collection of poems that reckon with the complicated pasts of broken-hearted people, and in its incredible intimacy and with courageous fire, this collection holds fast to the ashes of love and family. The language is fresh, the perspective is raw, and the intellectual scope is vast in its references and renderings of the American West.—Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet
Lan Duong has gifted us an essential gut-punch of a poetry collection. Nothing Follows is a work informed by family, nation, and war, while shattering our preconceived notions of all those things. I feel particularly thankful for these poems, as a fellow Viet American writer: to witness our struggle and our survival and our defiance rendered with such care and such beauty. I only wish this collection were around when I was younger. I’m so glad it exists now in the world.—Bao Phi. author of A Different Pond and Thousand Star Hotel
Brave and evocative in its return to girlhood, Lan Duong’s Nothing Follows powerfully looks back at the trials of adolescence in a refugee household where the shadows of war, displacement and unspoken grief continue to haunt the periphery. Through poems reflecting on painful family histories, challenges of puberty, and the days of youth and wild freedom, Duong combines striking language with rich detail to assemble a courageous narrative. This is a collection that is ready to tell and confront all.—Mai Der Vang, author of Afterland and Yellow Rain
About the Author
Lan P. Duong is Associate Professor in Cinema & Media Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She is the author of Treacherous Subjects: Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism (Temple University Press, 2012). Duong’s creative works have appeared m Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose, Bold Words: Asian American Writing to Span the Centuries, Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, and Crab Orchard Review. She lives in Pasadena, California.