Rainy Day Memories: A Conversation with Nguyen Si Kha

Nguyen Si Kha is a Vietnamese-American author and poet, best known for his award-winning collection of short stories, Rainy Day Memories. The stories explore the themes of nostalgia, identity, and belonging, drawing from his own experiences as a refugee and an immigrant. In this interview, we talk to him about his inspiration, his writing process, and his upcoming projects.

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Q: What motivated you to write Rainy Day Memories?

A: I have always loved reading and writing stories, ever since I was a kid. I grew up in a small village in Vietnam, where storytelling was a part of our culture and tradition. My parents and grandparents would tell me stories about our ancestors, our history, our folklore. I was fascinated by the power of words, how they could transport me to different worlds and times.

When I was 12, my family had to flee Vietnam because of the war. We escaped on a boat, along with hundreds of other people. It was a terrifying and traumatic experience. We spent weeks at sea, facing storms, pirates, hunger, and thirst. Many people died along the way.

We were lucky to survive and reach a refugee camp in Malaysia. Where we stayed for two years before we were resettled in the United States.

Moving to a new country was another challenge. Had to learn a new language, a new culture, a new way of life. We faced discrimination, poverty, and isolation. Struggled to fit in and find our place. We missed our home, our friends, our relatives. We felt like we had lost a part of ourselves.

Writing was a way for me to cope with these difficulties. It’s was a way for me to express my feelings, my thoughts, my memories. It was a way for me to reconnect with my roots, my heritage, my identity. It was a way for me to honor my past, my present, and my future.

Q: How did you choose the stories and the characters for your collection?

A: The stories and the characters are inspired by my own life and the lives of people I know or have met. Some of them are based on real events, some of them are fictionalized, some of them are a mix of both. I wanted to capture the diversity and complexity of the Vietnamese diaspora, the different experiences and perspectives of people who have left their homeland and settled in different parts of the world.

Some of the stories are set in Vietnam

Some of them are set in the United States, some of them are set in other countries. The stories are told from the point of view of children, some of them are told from the point of view of adults, some of them are told from the point of view of elders. Some of the stories are about love, some of them are about loss, some of them are about hope.

I wanted to show the beauty and the pain, the joy and the sorrow, the strength and the vulnerability, the resilience and the fragility of the human spirit. I wanted to show the commonalities and the differences, the similarities and the contrasts, the connections and the conflicts among people of different backgrounds, cultures, generations, and genders.

Q: What are some of the challenges and rewards of writing in a second language?

A: Writing in a second language is both a challenge and a reward. It’s is a challenge because English is not my native tongue, and I sometimes struggle with finding the right words, the right expressions, the right nuances. I sometimes feel like I am not fully able to convey what I want to say, what I want to mean, what I want to imply. I sometimes feel like I am losing something in translation, something that is essential and irreplaceable.

But writing in a second language is also a reward because it allows me to explore new possibilities, new dimensions, new horizons. It’s allows me to experiment with different styles, different forms, different techniques. It allows me to play with language, to bend it, to break it, to remake it. It allows me to create something new, something unique, something original.

Writing in a second language is also a way of bridging the gap between two cultures, two worlds, two selves. It is a way of communicating with a wider audience, a way of sharing my stories, my voice, my vision. It is a way of reaching out, of inviting, of welcoming.

Q: What are you working on now? What are your future plans?

A: I am currently working on a novel, which is a continuation of one of the stories in Rainy Day Memories. It is about a young woman who returns to Vietnam after 20 years of living in the United States. She is searching for her biological father, who she never met, and who she believes is still alive. Along the way, she discovers more about her family history, her cultural heritage, and her personal identity.

My future plans are to keep writing, to keep telling stories, to keep exploring the themes that interest me and resonate with me. Hope to publish more books, to reach more readers, to inspire more people. I hope to contribute to the literature of the Vietnamese diaspora, to the literature of the Asian-American community, to the literature of the world. I hope to make a difference, to make an impact, to make a mark.

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