Portrait of My Father

lê thi diem thúy

Granta 104: ‘Fathers’ includes recollections of their fathers by nine writers. For Granta.com, we have invited new writers to reflect upon a picture of their father. The next in our series is by lê thi diem thúy, a poet, performer and author of the novel The Gangster We Are All Looking For.

This is my father and I in the courtyard of the refugee camp in Singapore. It was after Vietnam, and before America. I don’t know who the girl to our right is. Time has eaten away at this picture, and taken part of her with it, but I always study her tilted figure sliding off of the fold-up chair, foot alluringly turned.

My father is thirty years old in this picture. I am six. I don’t understand what the camera is for, but my father does. He stands up straight, one hand on his hip, the other around my shoulder and smiles his soft little smile, which is aimed at my mother, who is still in Vietnam. On the back of this picture he will write his name: Le Quang Minh, above my name: Le Thi Diem Thuy; the word Singapore; the year 1978.

He is young and handsome and hopeful. He believes there is a future for us somewhere. When he smiles like that, who can tell him otherwise?

The Orwell Prize
Portrait of My Father