While living in Philippines in the 1980s, I met a young Amerasian, Vu Hai, at a refugee camp in the mountains of Bataan. Vu Hai’s father, an American GI, had married his mother while on tour in Vietnam and had two children with her. He returned to the U.S. promising to send for them, but he never did. Instead, he married someone else. After the fall of Saigon, Vu Hai and his mother became boat people and eventually came to the Philippines. His sister did not make it. She was shot by the Communist Home Guard while trying to get on a boat. The Joint Voluntary Agency helped Vu Hai locate his father, who lived in Florida, but his father refused to sponsor him or help in any way. When I heard this, I asked Vu Hai to let me contact his father. I wanted to tell him what a smart, brave, handsome son he had, to persuade him to change his mind. But Vu Hai said no, he would get to the States without his father’s help. And that was that. But Vu Hai’s father haunted me. I wanted to know his story, what had befallen him in Vietnam, why he would reject his son. I dreamed of him at night and could not put him from my mind. One day, back home in the US, I was working at my computer. It was one of those gray winter days in Virginia, bleak outside and dark inside.
The only light came from my screen. I heard a man crying. I jumped up and searched the house, but there was no one, and I realized I was having an auditory hallucination. I sat back down, set my fingers on the keyboard, and a man’s voice came out of the air. It was Charlie’s voice. He wrote this novel for me.