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Books: Vietnam refugee story hits home

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

It took Margaret Bailey more than three decades to complete her books about intense and life-altering relationships with Vietnam refugees, especially a 15-year-old boy named Hong. In 1975, when Hong, his brother and his cousin escaped Communist rule, Bailey was a 35-year-old German teacher in Denver who suffered from depression severe enough to cause a suicide attempt.

“Waves of Amber: First Wave” tells the story of how Hong helped restore a sense of purpose to her life, and how she enabled him to build a better future.

Her chapters alternate between her and Hong’s experiences in the mid-1970s. Through Hong’s stories, she reconstructed his harrowing experience escaping his home country, surviving a horrendous ride across the ocean, sitting in a camp and finally ending up in Denver. Then, she reveals her deep depression and conflict about willing herself to survive as she grows closer to Hong.

It isn’t until about two-thirds of the way into the book that Bailey actually meets Hong, but her storytelling is compelling enough to carry readers through. As their relationship develops, sexual tension mixes with motherly love. While readers may find this subject matter difficult, Bailey said she stuck to the facts, both emotionally and literally, only dramatizing, or “fictionalizing” scenes “to create a more engaging story.”

“The book is nothing else, if not honest,” Bailey said in an interview. “It really just is the story of my heart.”

The story ends rather unresolved, but Bailey plans to release the second installment, which illustrates the resolution of her relationship with Hong, at the end of 2010. Book two and three (the latter of which is due out in spring) also will include stories about a second and third wave of refugees who came into Bailey’s life four years after Hong, then one year after that.

Though she has always wanted to write, “ever since I knew about books,” she waited until her retirement, in 1992, to begin honing her skills.

“(Books) were magic, and I wanted to be the magician, but I didn’t have anything to write (early in life),” she said. “But after all of the experiences I went through, I felt I had a depth (of experience) that was unique to my humanity … I knew these books were in me, and I had to get them out.”


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