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Chapter Three “the gangster we are all looking for”

Chapter Synopsis

Vietnamese farmer, Hoi An, Vietnam

Above: Vietnamese farmer, Hoi An, Vietnam

A black and white photograph of the narrator's grandparents in Vietnam is described in the beginning of the chapter. Ma was a Catholic schoolgirl who decided to marry Ba even though he was a Buddhist gangster. Ma's parents were furious and disowned their daughter. Ma gave birth to the narrator in an alley behind her grandparents' home in Vietnam.

The family moves from the Red Apartment with the palm tree and what once had been a pool, to the Green Apartment. The family moves again to Linda Vista after the complex manager murders a woman. Ma becomes angry at Ba for gambling and drinking and decides to shave her head. After the black and white photo is sent to the family, Ma and Ba begin to fight. Children outside wonder what all the commotion is about, and the narrator goes outside and dances in front of the crowd.

The family is evicted from their home, which gets demolished. When they leave, Ma recalls she forgot the photograph of her parents in the apartment. She sobs and pleads to return to her parents.

[thúy as a child with her father in the courtyard of the refugee camp in Singapore, 1978. Source: Granta]

Important Elements of Chapter Three

Specific Quotations Regarding the Narrator:

Page 99: “We stand on the edge of the chain-link fence . . . . The whole world is two butterfly wings rubbing against my ear. Listen . . . they [grandparents in photograph] are sitting in the attic . . . Paper fragments floating across the surface of the sea. There is not a trace of blood anywhere except here, in my throat, where I am telling you all this.”

Specific Quotations Regarding the Father's Character:

Page 79: “...my father, a Buddhist gangster from the North...”

Page 93: “Ba jumps in his truck and drives away. When I grow up I am going to be the gangster we are all looking for.”

Specific Quotations Regarding Language:

Page 88: “We live in the country of California, the province of San Diego, the village of Linda Vista.”

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