Undoubtedly, the skills you learn as a child never leave you. When I quit my day job to focus on writing, my biggest concern was how I was going to pay my bills. My boyfriend and I had just moved into two rooms in a large house in D.C. and were sharing living expenses. Nevertheless, by the end of our first month as new renters, we were already coming up short. Desperate to find the last $100 he needed to meet our $800 rent, my boyfriend decided to go online and try to sell his winter coat. It sold immediately . . . for $100. We made the rent.
Seeing the potential of online vending, we immediately began selling anything we could get our hands on. I saw an escape route from the daily grind of going to a job of inputting data and I took it. Online vending became my “new hustle.” We opened an online store selling gently used clothing. Immediately, I had become an entrepreneur. Since then, my goal each month has been to sell enough clothing online to pay my bills and therefore afford myself the time to write. My new hustle, however, was not really all that new to me. In fact, when I thought about it, I realized that it was actually the culmination of the person I had started to become between the ages of nine and ten.
Here’s what I meant to tell my mom: “Fellow book-lover, I understand this is a provocative novel, and that I am, in fact, in the Advanced Language Arts Group—a great responsibility for a seventh-grader. I appreciate the opportunity to read challenging works! (We all remember the Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express debacle.) However, you may have noticed that my peers have recently entered puberty, the unending bloodsport of preempting one’s own humiliation by humiliating others. The teachers have made it clear that ‘boys will be boys,’ so I don’t necessarily trust them to cultivate a learning environment that serves these complex vocabularies. Do you see my concern?” Here’s what I said: “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I just. Hm. I don’t really wanna—all this stuff—you know how the boys are, and . . . I don’t. I just don’t know.”
The literature by Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans is out there for anyone who knows how to use Google. But so many here and abroad would rather not know, or when a new Vietnamese author is published, would prefer to say, “At last! A voice for the Vietnamese!” In fact, there are so many voices, for the Vietnamese people are very loud. They just often aren’t heard by those who don’t understand Vietnamese, or those who would prefer to think of Americans when they hear the word “Vietnam,” or those who have room in their course syllabuses for only one Vietnamese book, as is still the case in too many college classes on the Vietnam War, even if that one book is as worthy as Bao Ninh’s novel “The Sorrow of War.” This book is not just a North Vietnamese war classic — it is a classic war novel of any time and any place.
That week everything suddenly became somehow off-topic:
Poets could no longer cheerfully inform the public about their readings,
Artists were too ashamed to announce the openings of their exhibits,
Which would have been called, for example, “Museum of the Revolution,”
And even retailers were somehow uncomfortable urging everyone into their stores,
When there were thousands of people.
Everyone who demanded attention was forced to justify themselves,
Because all attention was fixed on one thing.