May Ngo is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Her research focus is on processes of industrialisation and factory work in Cambodia and the nexus between migrant labour, economic development and religious NGOs.
About the book May will be working on:
I am working on a short story collection based on interviews I conducted with my Dad about his memories of joining and fighting in the Vietnam War on the side of the Viet Cong. Although Cambodian of Chinese origin, he joined the Viet Cong in Vietnam after the secret bombings of Cambodia by the U.S and their support of a coup d’etat in the country, reflecting how the wider region was implicated into the war from the very beginning.
In lieu of writing a non-fiction memoir of my Dad’s experiences (although I intend to do this one day), I think that fiction is a singular vehicle able to express how these forces impact on an interpersonal, relational and emotional level as well as in a very concrete way on individual lives, and how these individual lives navigate and respond to them. Although based on actual events, they are fictionalised so not everything happened in the way the stories are written, and some did not happen at all. But I believe they are true to the spirit of the experiences.
They will be complete short stories in themselves but are held together by the thread of a central character whose name and geographical location changes, as he moves from Cambodia to Vietnam and then migration to Australia, specifically to western Sydney. It is at once a war story, a migration story, and an inter-generational story.
The ‘other side’ of a war is a story rarely told in the West. My goal is not to make a case for either side, but rather to show that there are many sides to a narrative, to an event, especially one as monumental as war. And that some accounts are privileged over others- in writing this collection of short stories, I want to add another account.