Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Alienation is demoralizing (212)

I was born 1971, Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. My family and I were a part of the first exodus of boat people after the Vietnam war. In March 1981, we settled in Sydney, Australia. I graduated with a bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney. I have been translating Vietnamese literature for the past five years in my search to better understand my mother’s language and culture. My translations have been shared through blogging over the past year. I am still a registered pharmacist practicing in Western Sydney. I hope to continue translating, and continue to share Vietnamese art and literature, beyond borders on SONGNGUTAITRAM.
(July 2021)

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


Alienation is demoralizing, the isolation crushing, especially under all the moist damp spit and pity. What can one do? Sit and cry, sure, I’ve done that. I’ve wept so often that I wonder if it is menopause or post traumatic stress syndrome from a war that’s almost half a century buried in oblivion. I ask myself daily why I do anything at all. Why? 


I am from a lost generation ignorant of my roots and culture. The garbage generation. I am accused of not being able to read and write my native language, I am accused of not being able to spell in my adopted country. I am accused of living in the past. I am accused of drowning in my own pity, let alone more pity from any privileged outsider. How do I identify myself? If I can not, what will happen to my children, the making of my flesh and bone? Pity is reserved for those whom relishes in dishing out pity. 


Don’t get confused between pity and kindness. Kindness is an act of love without words. Kindness is a joke to make someone laugh in the darkest hour. Kindness is to ignore someone’s poverty and simply listen. I am the recipient of such kindness. It is a love that is undefined by words. 


If you are in the mood to be charitable, be kind, help a child(like me) learn to read and write. Then maybe one day they will be your boss, they will build your schools, your hospitals, the pavement you walk on every day.

October 2021

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

4 replies on “Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Alienation is demoralizing (212)”

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