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Dao Strom is the author of a bilingual poetry/art book, You Will Always Be Someone From Somewhere Else (AJAR Press, 2018), a hybrid-forms memoir We Were Meant To Be a Gentle People + music album East/West (2015), and two books of fiction, The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys (2006) and Grass Roof, Tin Roof (2003). Her work has received support from the Creative Capital Foundation, RACC (Regional Arts & Culture Council), Oregon Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Precipice Fund, and others. She is the editor of diaCRITICS and co-founder of the collective She Who Has No Master(s). Twitter/Instagram: @herandthesea
Over the past two years of editing diaCRITICS (and over the last decade of contributing to both DVAN and diaCRITICS), I’ve given much thought to the tensions between the individual and the collective, in particular to how this is weighted for a Vietnamese person in the diaspora, who must navigate multiple points of pressures, both internal and external, familial and societal.
My hopes and questions for AJAR are not separate from my hopes and questions for the Vietnamese language in its survival from all violences of the past [I am pessimistic and not exaggerated] and in its encounters with the other’s languages.
I was conscious that the readership would be much broader and unfamiliar with the historical and political context against which much of Cabramatta’s gangs emerged, became Australia’s heroin capital and infamously led to Australia’s first political assassination.
It is only the failure of the American imagination and perception—a failure and inability to recognize and make space for the full imaginative agency of Vietnamese visions—that has perpetuated the notion of a dearth or naivety of art of the Vietnamese diaspora.
I never considered poetry as career and forever reject the corporate model to poetry. I never approached making art like that; I sought to be more like my dream: to remain a student to poetry and to be myself.
On 1 July 1972 during the Easter Offensive two Vietnamese journalists, Ngy Thanh and Đoàn Kế Tường, used a heavily damaged railway bridge to cross the Bến Đá River, which bisects Highway One between the cities of Quảng Trị and Huế. What met them on the other side was a scene of carnage: many hundreds of civilian and military personnel corpses littered the highway, the result of an attack two months earlier.
Her research focuses not just on the events of the massacre, but on the civilian efforts—spearheaded by the independent newspaper Sóng Thần (which my mother and father were publishers and editors of)—to identify and bury the bodies of the dead in the aftermath of the event.
My writing, therefore, uses inviting language—language some might call accessible—to make the world legible to subjects like my mother, and to make subjects like my mother legible to the world.