Hoa Nguyen | An Interview      (page 3)

2. In an interview with Joshua Marie Wilkinson from Bookslut at the very end you stated, “My name is pronounced ‘Hwa Win.’ And I say it with an American accent.” That line resonated with me a lot as I have an older sister whose name is “Kethia” (hardly anyone pronounces it correctly due to its French origins). Why did you find it was necessary to add this at the end of the interview? Has your racial and cultural background affected the way you write your poems and the topics that are covered? Has living in Texas or growing up in the U.S. affected the way you write in any way?

Well first because so many people do NOT know how to pronounce Hoa Nguyen!

I once heard this story about Hollywood producers of the movie The Joy Luck Club; the movie featured an Asian American cast. And the non-Asian producers were worried— said, But there were no “Americans” in the cast! When, in fact, they were all Americans. They just weren’t white.

I added that because I am an American. Even though my name isn’t typically associated with “American.” My English is American English and I speak with an American accent. And, I really do not pronounce my name “correctly.” I say it like an American, like your sister’s name, stripped of its original accents.

When I very small, four or five, growing up in the DC area, I had access to a reel-to-reel song player; this was brought by my parents from Saigon. I could listen to reels of Vietnamese folk songs and also the “greatest hits” of Johnny Cash. I think the image of me, a child of Vietnamese/Euro American descent, is captured in that musical range, two different kinds of folk song.

I’m interested in where places, people, languages and cultures meet. The great bilingual magazine Mandorla represents this with the almond shape that is formed when two circles overlap. Mandorla means almond in Spanish. I’m interested in what happens within that almond shape.

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