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Short Girls - Bich Minh Nguyen



I was intrigued by the title. Of course I was intrigued by it! Having grown up as a ‘tall’ girl in India where the average height of a female is around 5ft 0”, I learnt how to tactfully deal with ‘tall’ girl comments whether in school, at the cinema or even when trying to buy a decent pair of shoes! Having moved to the UK, this is rarely a matter of interest to the general populace. This post however is not about tall girls. It is about those at the opposite end of the spectrum. Obviously. 
This post also doesn't adhere to the geographical boundaries of South Asia. However, books by other diverse writers will now make an occasional appearance on Desi Lekh. 
Short Girls by Bich Ming Nguyen tells us the story of two sisters Van and Linny Luong of Vietnamese origin living in the US. Apart from their short stature, they seem to share little else. Van is a studious lawyer who seeks comfort in a stable job and relationship. Linny on the other hand, is more adventurous in both her career trajectory as well as her relationships. Their father, an eccentric inventor of the ‘Luong Arm’ and other gadgets that he designs to help short people live a comfortable life is a character to watch out for. I must also mention a host of Vietnamese family friends of the Luong family provide a steady background to the story of Van and Linny.
The story alternates between the sisters’ lives and finally culminates into their gradual intimacy when they learn to lean on each other in times of personal difficulty. The memory of their late mother is beautifully narrated and there are times when I felt that that the emotions were gently yet poignantly drawn out. The insight into Vietnamese culture in terms of the food and traditions is noteworthy. The author also tackles the stereotypical occupation of immigrant Vietnamese women in America – Any guesses? I’ll leave you to find out when you read this book.
Although I found the writing engaging, I found the pace of the story too slow for my liking and there were a couple of instances where I found the prose to be a tad repetitive e.g. when the author narrates Van’s own frustrations and insecurities. Having said that, the book needs recognition as there are few books of fiction that are based on Vietnamese families and if you are anthropologically inclined, this book is definitely a good start!

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