Daughter of the Sea: My Voyage to Freedom and Womanhood 

Le, Hiep Thi

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An Unforgettable Voyage...

Memoir of an 8-year old "boat person" who flees post-war communist Vietnam in search of a father and brother rumored to have escaped to the West. Braving sea storms and pirates in an overloaded fishing boat, Hiep and her younger sister are rescued by British sailors and interned in a series of horrific Hong Kong refugee camps. Surviving by their wits, these displaced children of the sea create their own primitive society amid the dispirited and desperate adults awaiting sponsors in the U.S. Finally settling in California, Hiep's family is reunited only to confront the promise and perils of modern America. Especially meaningful to young readers struggling to find their own identities, Daughter of the Sea depicts an epic, extraordinary journey from East to West, from childhood lost to premature adulthood and the rebirth of a most remarkable young woman. Young Adult Nonfiction: Publisher pending.
© Jay Wurts

Review by

I have just completed reading a fantastic memoir by Hiep Thi Le. The name of the book is Daughter of the Sea: My Voyage to Freedom and Womanhood. It was released on 22nd January 2020. I always enjoy reading books of this genre. As they reflect a person's true stories, they always carry some great messages. This book also carries such messages which can be implemented in our daily lives. Some of them are:

  1. "A Captain without a boat is not a captain." This sentence has become my most favourite sentence in this book. 
  2. "Assume no one you meet at sea is a friend." This sentence also carries some deep thoughts.
  3. "Stealing is always a crime, even when done by an empty stomach." 

From these three sentences, I think you have already started guessing the story of the memoir. The story is of an eight-year-old girl who escaped post-war communist Vietnam. 

It started on the shore of the Song Hang River, Vietnam. Twiggy was the author's name when she was a child. One day, her father, his oldest brother and his oldest son left the family. Her mother told her that they were on an errand. But from the neighbours, she came to know that they had escaped from the country. Before them, people from their village were started to flee one by one. After that incident, the author and her family were under house arrest by the police for a week or two. Her mother took care of the family in the absence of their father. 

One night, her mother took Twiggy and her sister Dimples to a fishing boat and from here, their thrilling immigration voyage started. The author's portrayal of how a family gets apart from each other and how they reunite after facing so many challenging circumstances will make anyone emotional.

I got to know some Vietnamese cultures such as naming a child from this memoir. The author didn't hesitate to describe the cultures and rituals she has experienced in her life. Her refugee life in Hong Kong was very heart touching. 

This review will not be enough if I don't talk about the writing style of the author. While reading the book, it seems like the author is talking directly to the reader. This strategy will definitely help to maintain the reader's engagement. She switches from one topic to another very smoothly. It's difficult for a writer to describe a child's dream. But the author perfectly did it. The "simplicity" element in her writing style gives a more realistic vibe to the reader. Her writing style reflects that it took so many years to write this masterpiece.

When it comes to the recommendation, this book ticks all the checkpoints and so it can be recommended to the readers of all the genres. This is a "must taste" piece for the memoir/ biography/ autobiography lovers. Even a person who usually doesn't like to read books will also love this book. The author didn't use any vulgar or profane words in this book. So a minor can read this book without a doubt. 

Now comes the most interesting part of the review i.e. rating. The author has portrayed each and every scene very beautifully. I felt as if I was sailing on a boat while reading the book. But I expected some drawings/pictures which could have helped the (minor) readers to imagine the story. Sitting on the fence, I am putting my ratings below. 

Writing style: Four out of four stars. I think the aforesaid reasons will be enough to explain this rating. 

Story: Four out of four stars. The stories of memoirs/ autobiographies/ biographies always deserve full marks. In this memoir, the story is so attractive that once you have read the book, you will read it again and again. At least three times. 

Overall Rating: Four out of four stars. I always keep my eyes on the negative points of a book so that I can erase at least one star. But this time I have failed to do so. This book deserves the stars. 

If you are thinking of buying this book, you can click on the link given below. Comment below to give me your constructive ideas so that I can write better reviews for you. If you loved this review, kindly share it with your friends, foes and families. It will encourage me to bring more reviews to you. Keep smiling, keep reading. Bye!

About the Author...

Hiep Thi Le was born in 1971 one of seven children in Da Nang, Vietnam. At the tender age of eight, she and her younger sister stowed away on a fishing boat, believing their mother was aboard. It was a perilous journey which landed the sisters in the first of several refugee camps. Hiep's family was eventually reunited years later in northern California. Once in the US, Hiep taught herself to read and write English. She was educated at Oakland high school and studied pre-med at the University of California, Davis. It was during college that on a whim she agreed to accompany her sister and friends to an open casting call for the Oliver Stone film Heaven and Earth. Hiep was surprised to receive a call back the following week. After an arduous five-month audition including thousands of applicants for the lead role, the part was hers.

Following Heaven and Earth, Hiep continued to act in several films and television shows. In 2002 she began a second career in the restaurant business, first as a chef at China Beach Bistro in Venice Beach and later as both chef and owner of Le Cellier in Marina Del Rey. Hiep courageously battled stomach cancer and died at the age of 46 in early 2018. She is survived by her husband, their two children and her parents.

Above all, Hiep was the proud mother of two.

The project is being managed by Hiep's friend and business partner, Jill Powell.