Biography of Kim Thúy
A tumultuous journey, followed by a winding road
In the spring of 1975, the war in Vietnam ended, followed by an exodus by sea of refugees, who were later referred to as “boat people”. Ten-year-old Kim Thúy and her family ended up in one of many overcrowded little boats after a frightening escape from a refugee camp, eventually settling in Quebec.
Shortly after Kim Thúy’s family arrived in Granby, her father was offered a job by the manager of the Castel Hotel. This first gesture of welcome by a kind and thoughtful man had a major impact on their lives and changed their vision of the world. Her parents’ unconditional love and support also greatly influenced Kim Thúy’s life. Her father passed on to her the “gene of happiness” and her mother taught her how to overcome her fears by giving her the right tools that made her into the strong, committed and passionate woman she is today. Other influential people have also shaped and mentored Kim throughout her personal and professional life. All these people are now “part of her DNA”.
Upon her arrival in Quebec, Kim Thúy rapidly integrated and immersed herself in the culture. She learned French and pursued an education, leading to two degrees from the University of Montreal: a Bachelor’s degree in Translation, then a Bachelor’s degree in Law, followed by Bar school.
Throughout the years, Kim Thúy worked in varied jobs as a seamstress, a performer, a lawyer, a consular officer, a restaurant owner and even as a food and television columnist. All these different experiences ultimately lead her to her current vocation, writing.
A talented author, sensitive and committed
Her first novel, Ru, published in 2009, was a huge success right from its release. A bestseller in Quebec and in France, it was translated into more than twenty-five languages and has won numerous literary prizes including the prestigious 2010 Governor General of Canada Award.
Kim Thúy constantly seeks to deepen her knowledge and refine her understanding of others. At a literary event in Monaco, she met the Franco-Slovak-Swiss author Pascal Janovjak. This notable encounter between Thúy and Janovjak developed into a correspondence that later became a book entitled À toi, published in 2011. The work, co-written by these two authors tells the story through memories and anecdotes, of two children through exile and a nomadic life.
In 2013, the author’s third book, Mãn, was released. Translated into nine languages, it tells the story of a woman’s love for her mothers, who each in turn gave birth to her, nourished her and raised her. Published in 2016, Kim Thúy’s fourth book tells the story of Vi, a young girl whose name refers to what is infinitely small or microscopic, a “little treasure” to be protected by the family, but who instead finds herself on her own facing life and all its tumults.
Kim Thúy is the mother of an autistic teenager. When she discovered a method of communication developed by autism specialists and founders of SACCADE, Brigitte Harrisson and Lise St-Charles, Kim was finally able to understand and be understood by her son Valmond, an event which transformed her life. The book Autism explained to non-autistics is a collaboration between Kim Thúy and these two specialists (Brigitte herself is autistic). Its aim is to share with other families the benefits of this method in an accessible way, interspersed with anecdotes that give a better understanding of this disorder and its implications.
In her most recent book, Ms. Thúy shares more than 50 recipes from her native country, Vietnam, often accompanied by a short text, a book excerpt or an anecdote, allowing the reader a view into the author’s unique universe. Kim has an undeniable talent for telling stories from the heart with finesse, humor and truth.
A voice for refugees and immigrants
At the many conferences she gives, Kim Thúy welcomes the opportunity to talk about Quebec culture, and the country that gave her a home and a second chance at life. By speaking publicly about her past, Kim helps raise awareness in the community about the reality of refugees and puts a human face on their experiences. In 2017, she received an honorary doctorate for speaking about the refugee experience.
Wherever she goes, Kim Thúy wows people with her humility, her passion, her generosity, her simplicity and her openness to causes as a woman and a mother. She embodies resilience, hard work and talent. The 10-year-old girl who did not speak a word of French has now become a writer who is read throughout the world. Her books are sold in twenty-five countries and with seven literary awards under her belt, Kim Thúy is inspiring the world, one reader at a time.
As a member of the board of the Conseil des arts et des letter du Québec (CALQ), Kim Thúy received the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Tolerance Award. She was appointed Knight of the Ordre national du Québec and received the Médaille d’honneur of the Assemblée nationale du Québec. She has also been a spokesperson for Petit-Robert since 2016 and her name appears in the 2018 edition of the Robert Illustré.
For Kim Thuy, receiving a prize is more than recognition; it’s an opportunity for her to talk about the place she came from, the culture that raised her, the people who supported her, but most of all, it’s a chance for her to give a voice to the voiceless. The public often asks her questions about refugees and immigrants, topics she never tires of talking about. Most of the time, refugees and immigrants have no voice, no face, no history, and no life. Kim gives herself the responsibility to humanize them; a responsibility that is greater than her writing and greater than herself.
Beauty will save the world
Kim Thúy’s life mission is to slow life down for people in order for them to see all the beauty that surrounds them. As she says so well: “If we take the time to stop a little, this is where the extraordinary emerges and reveals itself.” When Kim finds herself speaking in public, the external world no longer exists. During these intimate moments, she and her audience form a cocoon, a bubble; time stops and from there emerges richness and beauty. One of her mottos is a famous phrase by Dostoevsky: “Beauty will save the world”. According to Kim Thúy, the ability to see the beauty of this world is our only weapon of resistance against all forms of threats and uncertainty.
How can we not be inspired by this transcendent life? Kim Thúy is passionate about life and a great admirer of the beauty of the world. She gets excited when seeing the first flowers bloom in spring. She is delighted to make the grumpy taxi driver smile as he accompanies her to her next destination. She teases herself when she sees a hint of cellulite on her knee. She has an innate and deeply rooted gift, to transmit her joy of life to all those around her. She does not let herself fall into adversity and always ends up seeing the positive where many fail to do so. Her luminous energy and contagious laugh have the power to positively affect everyone who has the chance to cross her path. In other words, Kim Thúy inspires happiness.