📖: Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s The Mountains Sing (2020)
🍸: grandma’s guava
Why this book?
There’s so much that I have to learn about Vietnamese history, as well as the history of my own family before we left Vietnam in the early 90’s. Sadly, my Vietnamese language skills are limited, and this makes it hard for me to ask for and understand all the stories my grandparents can share with me about the years leading up to the Vietnam war. So, I was thrilled to read this beautiful novel about a family in 20th century Vietnam, giving me a glimpse into a place and time that I want to learn more about.
This multi-generational story highlights major events like the Japanese occupation, land reforms, the war, and its aftermath. I kept thinking about my family the entire time I was reading it. Where were my grandparents or parents during these major events? What were they doing? How did they feel? I need to do a better job of exploring and documenting my own family history.
In writing this deeply moving novel, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai advocates for cross-cultural understanding and empathy to avoid future wars. One of the most powerful things in this story was the portrayal of characters who offer compassion and forgiveness to those who have inflicted great losses on them – especially when those “enemies” are not from other countries, but are fellow neighbors, friends, or family. While the memory of the Vietnam War lasts beyond its end, I think this story helps us take a step towards understanding and healing.
Why this drink?
I am pairing this book with a simplified adaptation of the Liquid Culture blog’s Mama Guava cocktail, in honor of the protagonist. Guava and coconut are also commonly found in Vietnam, while the spices infuse the drink with some wintery holiday vibes.
1.75 oz coconut rum
0.75 oz guava juice
0.3 oz lemon
0.25 oz winter spice syrup
1 oz water
2 dashes angostura bitters
ground nutmeg, Vietnamese cinnamon stick, and Thai basil
- To make the winter syrup, bring 1 part water and 1 part sugar to boil with a dash of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla extract.
- Combine the syrup with all other ingredients in a shaker, and shake with ice.
- Strain into a glass with fresh ice and garnish.
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Marisel Vera’s The Taste of Sugar (2020)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!