Hometown: Northampton, MA
Dates in Sitka: 2010-02
lê thi diem thúy is a writer and solo performance artist. She left her native Vietnam by boat in 1978 with her family and was raised in southern California. She currently lives in western Massachusetts. lé writes about the experiences of Vietnamese refugees living in the United States, in her words the “floating casualties of history.” By focusing on the experiences of individuals within historic events, she confronts conventional history and explores the role of the body as the site of memory.
lê is the author of the debut novel, The Gangster We Are All Looking For (available for sale through Sitka’s independent bookstore, Old Harbor Books). It chronicles the life of a Vietnamese girl growing up in California with memories of being a boat refugee and of a brother who drowned in Vietnam as well as an alcoholic father. Her prose and poetry have appeared inThe Massachusetts Review, Harper’s Magazine, Muae and The Best American Essays as well as in the anthologies Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible, The Very Inside, Half & Half, andWatermark. Her solo performance works Red Fiery Summer, the bodies between us, and Carte Postalehave been presented at–among other venues–the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, the International Women Playwrights’ Festival in Galway, Ireland, the New World Theater at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the Marfa Theater Company in Marfa, Texas. She has been awarded residencies from the Headlands Center For The Arts, the GAEA Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute For Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and United States Artists.
Theater Journal had this to say about lê’s performance of Red Fiery Summer–
“Born in Vietnam during the devastating bombing campaigns of 1972, and raised in housing for Vietnamese immigrants in San Diego, thúy turned her family’s story into a powerful drama that raised questions of memory and identity. Despite the energy of the events this work recounts – the horrors of war, the passion of her parents’ young love, the desperation of her family breaking into their own home to retrieve their belongings after they had been evicted – lê performed most of the pieces at a slow, dream-like pace, her voice and movements graceful, rolling, unforced. But this same gentleness, when matched with the horrific violence underlying the story, created in performance the taut energy of a tightly drawn bow.”
lé was a resident with the Island Institute in 2010 as well. She came to Sitka than and returns now through collaboration with the United States Artists and the Rasmuson Foundation. She was the US Artist Ford Fellow in Literature for 2008.
Glimpses of thúy’s work:
Print: One of thúy’s poems was featured in Capital City Weekly on March 7th.
shrapnel shards on blue water
Radio: thúy’s interview with Island Institute co-director Carolyn Servid and reading for Raven Anthology is available here.