Vi Khi Nao
"I feel my passions are forever pulling me in different directions, each tying and severing themselves from me of their own free will. Writing fiction is the only way I’ve been able to track these flippant passions and preserve them in some way."
My materials are documents which feature members of my family—I don’t have sole claim to the material, and yet I work with it, manipulate the footage, the memories for my own purposes. I want mostly to mine my past, but in so doing, my family gets included along the way.
"Perhaps it would be clear what the impulse of “naming” could do in ways that simply writing out the words cannot. We can’t name the horror. We can trace it. We can color in the lines."
Watching the film Spirited Away when I was in my first year of high-school changed how I viewed the world. It was the first time I realised that magic existed: it existed in stories, in people, in the very ordinary and the very extraordinary.
My favorite Vietnamese word is “thương,” which is actually the very word that I incorporated in 'queer lost love'... “Thương” is like a love that can be romantic but more familial, and connotes a deeper, more genuine connection that’s emanating from the feeler. “Thương” is innocent, pure, raw, wholesome, honest love. But because it’s often used in a familial context, the romantic appeal of its use gets overshadowed and lost.
I have tried on a few occasions to write “Dear Mẹ” poems, but I do think that since she is still living that it is harder to be as honest and vulnerable. I think I am afraid to ask her the things I need to, I’m not sure why, and maybe it has to do with my lack of fluency in Vietnamese, and the lack of nuanced language one needs for these types of deep and challenging conversations.
Isabelle Thuy Pelaud is the co-founder of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network. In this intimate interview, she talks to Vi Khi Nao about everything from poetry, to the long echoes of colonial dynamics in France, to her fight for the lowercase 'i' as a form of subversive rebellion, to dreams, to wonderment, to the beauty of anti-theoretical living as learned from her dog Coco.