American Lục Bát For My Mother

In American Lục Bát for My Mother, Joshua Nguyen reimagines the lục bát, a traditional Vietnamese form, to bridge past and present, east and west, tradition and innovation. The poems sizzle with garlic and fish sauce as the speaker tries (and fails) to recreate one of his mother’s recipes—but beneath these tender love letters from a son to his mother simmers a crackly interrogation of American imperialism, whiteness, assimilation, and survival. How can we honor and preserve the histories, languages, songs, and recipes that are carried across borders and filtered through generations, while still holding space for expansion and connection, gratitude and honesty, salt and sugar?

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