📖Dear Diaspora: 🍸dream of green

book titled Dear Diaspora, propped next to a cocktail in a tall glass garnished with mint, cucumber, and Thai chili pepper

📖: Susan Nguyen’s Dear Diaspora (2021)
🍸: dream of green

Why this book?

Where is the beginning and where is the end — of memory? of grief? of youth? This collection of poems explores the tender edges of loss and longing, through a kaleidoscope of memories, from a girlhood full of desire. In a series of interconnected poems, Suzi — with her questions, Google searches, and letters to the diaspora — steps from the greenness of childhood into a new awareness of who she is, now with her father gone.

The way that the poems circled back and forth through different points in time makes the book feel like a dream. There is even a whole section that documents the stories of Vietnamese boat people through obituaries, letters, interviews, confessions, and memorials, rooting Suzi’s narrative within a larger chorus of voices throughout history. 

The book’s fluid movement through time is like a representation of what I’ve felt growing up in the Vietnamese diaspora. From the generation before us, we hear about the war, the fleeing, the place we left behind. The past bleeds into our present and future, and the things that happened before we were born somehow become our memories too.

When language can no longer contain the vastness of Suzi’s grief and desire, the poems turn to the lushness of nature. Through blades of grass, tree branches, open fields, and the green light of morning, Susan Nguyen’s voice shines. I look forward to reading more of Susan Nguyen’s writing!

Congratulations & happy #pubday, Susan! Thank you for gifting me a copy of your gorgeous book (I felt seen reading it), for co-creating this drink with me, and for giving it a fitting name — a reference to your poem “Dream of Double.”

Why this drink?

DEAR DIASPORA’s pairing is a spin-off of a mezcal mint julep. I incorporated greenery through the use of mint, cucumber, jasmine tea, and lime. I also added a touch of fish sauce and chili pepper, which, along with the fresh aroma of mint and cucumber, remind me of Vietnamese dishes like bánh xèo, bún chả giò, bánh cuốn…

closeup of two glasses of the "dream of green" cocktail, garnished with mint, cucumber, and Thai chili pepper
Susan mixed this drink at home and shared photos with me.
Love the use of the green peppers to stay on theme! 💖🥂
(photo by Susan Nguyen)

book titled Dear Diaspora by Susan Nguyen, propped next to a cocktail in a tall glass garnished with mint, cucumber, and Thai chili pepper

dream of green

2 oz mezcal
4-5 slices of cucumber
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz strongly brewed jasmine tea
~1/2 oz honey chili fish sauce syrup
(To make this syrup, combine 1/2 oz honey, 1/2 oz hot water, 5-6 thin slices of Thai chili pepper, and 2 drops of fish sauce, and stir until the honey dissolves.)*

for garnishes:
mint bouquet (4-6 sprigs), long cucumber wedge, generously slices of Thai chili pepper**

  1. In a steel tin or tall glass, muddle cucumber, and strain out the muddled cucumber, leaving behind the juices only.
  2. Rub the interior of the tin/glass with the mint bouquet to release the herb’s aromatic oils. Do not crush any of the mint leaves because this will result in a bitter taste.
  3. Add mezcal and approximately 1/3 oz of honey chili fish sauce syrup to the cucumber juice in the tin/glass, and stir gently with a bar spoon.
  4. Fill half the tin/glass with crushed ice, and stir for about 10 seconds until the outside of the tin/glass is frosted.
  5. Add lime juice and jasmine tea, add more crushed ice until the tin/glass is about 2/3 full, and briefly stir.
  6. Fill the rest of the tin/glass with crushed ice, until it’s heaping. Firmly pack the ice into the tin/glass to prevent rapid melting.
  7. Add the mint bouquet and a long wedge of cucumber for garnishes. Drizzle approximately 1/4 oz of the honey chili fish sauce syrup over the ice, and top with 2 thick slices of chili pepper.
  8. Enjoy with a straw!

Notes: 🥂
*When making the honey chili fish sauce syrup, add fish sauce at one drop at a time, and add more to taste, as needed.
**I used red Thai chili peppers, but you can use the green variety to add even more greenery to your drink!

Another round, please! 🥂

You might also like:
Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2016)

Let’s discuss!

Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!