There is something so special in reading a debut when you know that its author is about to catapult into literary stardom. Introducing Vivian Pham and her coming-of-age, Cabramatta-based, absolutely dazzling debut novel The Coconut Children.
The story follows Sonny and Vince, two Vietnamese Australian teenagers living in 1990s south-western Sydney. Sonny, our fierce, funny and completely endearing heroine, is navigating all the usual experiences of adolescence as well as coming to terms with her family’s history as refugees. Vince has just returned from a two-year stint in ‘juvie’ and is attempting to resume normal living and avoid the gang violence, drugs and socioeconomic struggle that seems to be the destiny of so many of his peers. Filled with wisdom, exquisite detail and electric writing, Pham has crafted a profound story of love, longing, family and intergenerational trauma.
Pham said that when she began writing the book she was working through feelings of anger about racism and identity but found that these feelings fell away throughout the writing process. Instead, she became “more focused on not only what it means to be Vietnamese but what it means to be the child of a refugee – what it means to carry stories inside you that you don’t really know but have been passed down to you.” In this way her story is evocative of Ocean Vuong’s stunning On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and what good company these books offer each other.
We’re still getting our heads around the fact that Pham is only 19 (every publishing house that saw this book bid for it at auction and she signed the book contract at 17!) but are so excited to shine a light on this bright young star. Enjoy!
A few links if you want to go deeper...
- The Guardian review
- The Saturday Paper review
- Sydney Morning Herald review
- Read about the acquisition
- Australian Book Review