On one of my visits home to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2001, I asked my seventy-year-old father to write a journal about his life and days in Viet Nam.
I said to him in English and part Vietnamese:
"Write whatever comes to mind. Don't worry about time and having things in order. Write from the heart. Write in Vietnamese. Don't worry about the language, or the form. I will figure it out later."
My father did not ask questions or why. He simply nodded and said, "Okay."
Two years later my father gave me his seventy-five page, handwritten journal and said, "My memory is good ... sometimes too good that it can be bad. My writing is not so good. It can be better."
I thanked my father for giving me what will later become the voice and inspiration to MORNING SUN, a historical fiction about a Vietnamese boy coming of age in wartime.
Clouds. A visible dark mass lingers in the air, lowers and threatens and destroys. Spring arrives.
from 14 December 1944, Thursday
to 2 March 1945, Friday
My parents say I am stronger and smarter than I appear. They have known this from the moment I was born on 8 April 1932 and stretched out my long fingers to touch my father's face. My brother before me was not strong. He died on the second day. My parents do not talk much about my brother's death. When life is difficult, my parents often call out my name, Manh, which means strength in Vietnamese. They say Manh with tenderness and a quiet defiance against the hardships of life.
I am twelve years old. I never doubt my strength and intelligence when I am with my parents, not even when sheets of gray skies linger in the air like today on 14 December 1944. It's that time of the year when the sun fades and disappears, sometimes taking as long as six days to return to Mong Phu, my little village on a low hill, forty-eight kilometers northwest of Ha Noi in Viet Nam. Two hundred people live in Mong Phu, and we have not seen the sun in four days. I know it's impossible, but sitting with my family near a stream, I wonder if the clouds, out of hunger, have eaten the sun.
* You can also follow me on Twitter for occasional updates on MORNING SUN and other writing projects. Please check back on January 28, 2013 when I return to my Monday Musings Blog with a new post.