“Triumph over unthinkable darkness” is a line from a movie we watch with a glass of wine nearby, curled up next to a friend or family member, or holding tight for comfort to a beloved pet. I chose this title for my blog as it is the epitome of my journey from darkness to light. I am Vanna Nguyen, author of The Life She Once Knew: The Incredible True Story of Queena, The Bloomingdale Library Attack Survivor. In the book, I recount my younger daughter’s fight for survival after a brutal attack – and how it mirrors my own fight to live two decades earlier as a Vietnam refugee. The proceeds will help support Queena’s ongoing medical expenses.
Can we ever really know what our future holds for us and how the little decisions we make can have such a great impact? Faith, love, and forgiveness are three gifts that I have tried to call my own when I think of the events surrounding Queena’s assault in 2008. I hope that you, the reader, will appreciate how our life changed and my journey by reading my book, which will be released in November. (You can visit the preorder page on Amazon.com here.)
On October 24, Hope Heals the Brain, Inc. and the Tampa Women’s Club will host a special book reveal party and fund-raising event in honor of Queena. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit Eventbrite here.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8, “Miracles at Sea,” when I fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War:
Suddenly, loud booms sounded from the other side of the boat. BOOM! I couldn’t figure out what might be causing the noises, but I knew it wasn’t the sound of waves. BOOM! I had listened to crashing waves for two days. I also knew that it wasn’t the sound of gunfire. This sound was different, and I was curious. BOOM! I crawled closer to the location of the noise. Carefully, oh, so carefully, I peered over the boat’s edge and saw total blackness. The water looked like ink that stretched for miles and miles. Then, I saw an image grow clearer. A shiny object burst through the palette of ink before me. BOOM! I couldn’t believe it—a whale, about half the size of our boat, pushed our vessel forward. Too shocked to be afraid, I just stared with my mouth wide open. As if taking turns, the same sound came from the other side of the boat. BOOM! I scurried to the opposite side to take a look. Yes, another whale doing the same thing. Our boat was being nudged along in the water by two whales! Unbelievable!
I choose this excerpt because I believe it shows how I have learned how to live in the present and accept what I cannot change. The public and the community who follow Queena’s story support and encourage my family. Although I’d never wish for anyone to experience a similar tragedy, I have met the most wonderful and kind people through Queena. I have learned that I will make it through rough times, such as when I was out on the sea so many years ago as a refugee and the whales guided us. We trusted in an experience foreign to us and allowed our boat to be moved forward. I know now that I can trust to get through the day and come out the other side.
These are a few of the lessons I hope to share with readers through my book. For some, my beginning is an American success story: fleeing Vietnam after the war as a teenager, surviving a harrowing journey on a forty-foot boat through the South China Sea, arriving in America as a refugee, then becoming a citizen and later the owner of a successful nail salon.
This December, I will be turning 58. As I look around me, I realize my path is different from those I know. My journey is seared into my memory. I was not always alone, and seeing both of my daughters go to college was my version of the American dream. This is something I might share with other refugees who have persevered and become citizens.
However, all of these trials did not become a world-changing event in my life. In 2008, my younger daughter, Queena, was brutally beaten and raped while returning library books. I became her primary caregiver and advocate. A tiny decision to drop off the books at an outside box resulted in consequences we still face today – and that’s something I do not wish anyone else to experience.
Comfort did not come from asking the inevitable “Why us? Why is this happening to our family?” Rather, our community rallied behind us, bringing acceptance, which allowed me to forgive and enabled me to become closer to God. I have always believed in self destination, so accepting that some things were outside of my control allowed me to flourish. These are the things I would like to share with you through The Life She Once Knew.
During these challenging times, people may ask what steps we take to overcome adversity. By trusting God, I am at peace with my own authenticity when dealing with situations beyond my comprehension. Through reading my book, I hope you will learn similar valuable lessons whether you are adapting to a new country, dealing with a child who has survived an assault but suffered severe brain damage, or facing other anxieties.
These days, I spend many hours researching different therapies for my daughter. My older daughter, Anna, is a great source of support, as is my son-in-law. I also speak to friends in person and online and continue with prayer, meditation, and walking to help move forward.
Darkness is a state of mind, whether enclosed in a boat battling the waves or struck down by tragedy or even fear of the unknown. Whatever you are facing, you can still trust in the Lord’s promises.
Thank you for listening. I hope to connect with you through the following social media platforms. Please let me know what your thoughts are, how you connect with your community, and what challenges you face today.
Amazon Author Page: Vanna Nguyen
Website: The Incredible True Story of Queena