It can be said that the efforts of an 88-year-old lady, who hurriedly flew to Hue and then went to A Luoi, to revisit the "old friends" and "inspect the reality" of how the once devastated land has revived, and then back to Hue again, collaborating with her daughter to edit the book, which was just sent to the printer and finished within thirty days, is truly rare.
As for the "talent," it refers to the financial aspect - a pensioner with a modest pension, who spent her own money to buy a round-trip ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue, and then paid for the printing of the "non-commercial" book; moreover, she "decided" to spend additional money on printing over a hundred color photos when she saw that the black-and-white print were not clear, which is also truly admirable.
| Mrs. Sally and her husband from the United States, who recently wrote a letter to Mrs. Dam Thu, had previously visited A Luoi to participate in a rattan tree planting project. Photo: From the book "Echoes of the Truong Son" - Thuan Hoa Publishing House, 2023.
Among the feedback received by Mrs. Dam Thu, there were especially some from American friends who had visited A Luoi several times. It was quite a "coincidence" that when Mrs. Dam Thu received the book, the journalist and writer Lady Borton was in Ho Chi Minh City. Let me quote a few lines from an article by the writer Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hai (published in "Thanh Nien" newspaper in early March 2023). Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hai wrote:
"... It seems that many intellectuals, artists, and numerous others speak of a dear American friend named Ms. Ly - Lady Borton, who knows how to speak Vietnamese and has travelled extensively throughout urban and rural areas of Vietnam, even walking on the monkey-bridge in the South... She is also a researcher who introduces Vietnamese culture to the United States and has close collaborations with the World Publisher and many publishers in Hanoi... However, in fact, Lady Borton first came to Vietnam during the war when the country was divided. She became familiar with Vietnam while working with the Quaker humanitarian organization in Quang Ngai in 1968... Lady is very close to the journalist Dam Thu because the two of them have travelled together from Vietnamese villages to the United States and France. Not for leisure tourism, Dam Thu, actually, was assigned by the Women's Union to accompany Lady for many years...".
I once met Lady Borton at the home of Dr. Nguyen Khac Vien (Dr. NKV) in Hanoi and learned that she has conducted extensive research on Vietnam. Mrs. Dam Thu, along with her husband, Tran Dang Nghi, an engineer, eagerly returned to North Vietnam from France after the Geneva Accords in 1954 to contribute to the nation-building efforts. Dr. NKV, who was in charge of the overseas Vietnamese community in France at that time, assisted them with the necessary paperwork.
Due to this connection, whenever Mrs. Dam Thu returned to Hue or had any books or newspapers, she would give me a call. Both Lady Borton and Mrs. Dam Thu have been close friends for many years, and they both collaborated with Dr. NKV - one in translation work and the other involved in the Child Psychology Research Center. Therefore, Lady Borton was eager to help Mrs. Dam Thu send the book about A Luoi along with a "charming handbag" that she had just bought at the A Luoi market to the United States.
To elaborate on this relationship a little further and to add a few lines from the joyful letters received from the United States upon receiving the book about A Luoi, is to show how Vietnam is embraced and celebrated by many international friends with warm and open arms...
Below is the translation of two letters from two American friends who had previously visited A Luoi:
"Dear Dam Thu,
I am delighted to hear that after much time spent writing and finding a publisher, you now have a beautiful book. I am truly thrilled to have a copy of this book. Thank you, my dear friend, for honoring me in the book.
I was deeply moved when I opened the package Lady sent and saw the beautiful cover with A Luoi's hills and the lovely embroidered bag. It is a sweet gift to remember you and the people I met during my visits to A Luoi. I was surprised to see the photo of Steve Nichols and me at Mr. Boi's tree nursery. Our friends and I are very pleased to have been able to support his workshops, provide fertilizer, and plant Bồ Kết trees along the hotspots of Orange Agent contamination, etc. Susan said he has even more plans for A Luoi...
Wishing you and everyone all the best.
Here is Mrs. Trude's letter:
"Dear Dam Thu,
I am delighted to receive the Vietnamese book about the memories of A Luoi with your signature - thank you very much. I have also read George Black's excellent book, 'The Long Reckoning,' which pays great attention to the significance of A Luoi and tells the stories of many of our friends who worked to repair some of the aftermath of the war against the US and France. I wonder if George Black might have any ideas about publishing an English translation of your book, which currently exists only in French?
I hope you are as healthy as can be, and I wish I could return to Vietnam to meet you.
The friends of Mrs. Dam Thu in Vietnam, such as the writer Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hai, and the director Dao Duc Thanh from the Central Documentary Film Studio, who visited A Luoi in 2011 to film a documentary about women in A Luoi and their socioeconomic development, and the critic Ngoc Trai, after reading the book or just the book's introduction through newspapers, have expressed their emotional reactions to the author's work and the positive changes in A Luoi.
Some people asked where they could buy the book. Unfortunately, the book is not for sale because the author paid for the printing herself, so only 150 copies were printed, with the A Luoi District Women's Union contributing to printing 50 copies. I suggested to a person who used to be a leader in A Luoi that they should propose funding from Thua Thien Hue Province to print more copies and make them look more appealing for wider distribution. Whether this 85-year-old's opinion will be heard or not remains to be seen... it's all about destiny!
As I am writing these lines, Mrs. Dam Thu called again to inform me that more people are inquiring about buying the book - including someone from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi Minh City, who want to provide it to students to learn more about the consequences of Orange Agent. Many people came to know about the book after the writer Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hai conducted an interview with Mrs. Dam Thu, which was published in "Ho Chi Minh City Women" newspaper under the title "An 88-Year-Old Female Journalist Returns to A Luoi to Write a Book." "Echoes of the Truong Son" has thus found its "echo" from various horizons.