To Distant Shores
Huan Phan and Tiep Phan
Phan Lac Press (2022)
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views (12/2022)
America is recognized by the waves of immigration that take place each year within its soil, with each person’s tale making up a unique real-life story in its decades-long history. Each story details the often arduous and precarious expeditions made by those who choose to leave behind everything they hold dear in the hope of a new life in another country.
“To Distant Shores” is a powerful memoir that chronicles the story of one refugee family as they escaped their home country, during the end of the Vietnam War and eventual resettlement in the United States after the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam in 1975. Born in Sài Gòn, Vietnam, in 1966, Huan Phan was eight years old when they boarded a plane and left behind the only home they had grown accustomed to. The story alternates between his father, a soldier during the war, his experiences and memories of the civil war that plunged the country into social and political havoc, and those of his son with his limited knowledge of the events that unfolded before his eyes.
With affecting, lyrical writing and astounding art, the book examines the fortitude of family, the significance of identity, and the meaning of home. From topics as political, economical, and historical to those as simple and tender as childhood innocence and familial bonds, the authors juxtapose the complex and vulnerable with the poignant and heartrending pulling the reader above and below the disquiet and solace to create a spirited reading experience.
“To Distant Shores” manages to confront issues empathetically that are akin to the migrant experience prompting a change in the immigration discussion by offering a more understanding outlook of their plight. One of the most defining aspects of this writing is the humor maintained while unboxing intricate politics, the refugee issue, and psychological anguish. This gripping memoir is told with earnest compassion offering an intimacy that manages to create a true homage to the resilience of the human spirit.
Told with openness, heart, and authenticity, “To Distant Shores” is truly a heartfelt exploration that is worthy of five stars.