WellRead’s April 2020 selection was The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham. In the words of the author herself, this book is a story that has been described in many different ways: “Some are convinced it’s an allegory for the migrant experience, a tale of intergenerational trauma. Others have called it a ‘gritty’ coming-of-age story about Western Sydney. Whatever you decide, I hope you will let go of such labels for the moment and open this book with the same naiveté that you would an unexpected letter.”
Use these discussion questions to engage with the book further, whether in a book club with friends, or just on your own as you digest the story.
Reading questions for The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham:
Let’s start with Sonny: sweet, awkward, funny Sonny. Did you fall in love with her like we did?
Vivian Pham said in an interview that she wanted to write a story about “inheriting your parents’ trauma”. In what ways does this apply to Sonny and Vince? What do you know about intergenerational trauma?
The book contains numerous untranslated Vietnamese phrases. Were you inclined to find out the meaning of these? Did you feel that they added to the book’s intimacy?
Despite Pham being Gen Z the book is set in the 90s. Why do you think she decided to set it during this time?
How did the book make you reflect on your own adolescence? Any embarrassing crushes?
How do you think Sonny’s parents’ personal histories impact the way they show love to their children?
- There are such nuggets of wisdom to be found in her writing. What did you make of this one: “ask the tree how it gets through summer, autumn, winter, spring, and it will tell you about the ending of everything.”
Please note, these questions were written and distributed in April, 2020.