Visions of Life 2


Vu Tran, award-winning author of Dragonfish

A quiet but devastating account of a mother’s struggle to cope with the aftermath of her young son’s suicide attempt. How do you process the near-death of your child, and how do you live with the possibility that it could happen again at any moment? As the mother in “Superman” watches her child’s every move, her narration interrogates the endless layers of what he did, from her memory of the terrible event to all the many complex and even contradictory questions that arise out of such a dilemma. The title of the “Superman” painting is itself ironic, depicting a young boy whose face is inscrutable and whose body is upturned, weakened, perhaps even supplicant—a state of being that this story captures in vivid and heartbreaking detail.

Disappearing Act
All three paintings in this entry—images of faceless or fading women—show up in “Disappearing Act,” reflecting the progression of ambivalent feelings afflicting the young protagonist. She’s unexpectedly pregnant on the eve of her wedding and struggling with troublesome family members, an indifferent fiancé, and a steady sense of her identity disappearing in the face of these dilemmas. What begins as a familiar domestic predicament turns into a story about personal as well as collective inheritance and how bringing life into the world can also make us question the life we’ve lived.

Quiet Invasions
A woman stands alone in the billiard’s room of her granddaughter’s new home, staring at a mysterious painting of a small European town, its pavement superimposed with fiery images from its war-torn history. She slips into an unsettling memory from her youth during World War II, which still haunts her terribly, even in her old age. The question that this tense, atmospheric story poses is whether we should protect ourselves and our loved ones from ugly memories and ugly truths, from the darkness that ends up shaping who we become. The woman and the reader are left, finally, with no good answer, only silence.

Soft Music
The Yoshitani painting is of a tree gnarled with age, pale against a blackened background, fragmented as though square tiles of itself have been glued back together. The narrator in this lovely and moving story sees her mother—who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s—in a similar light. As she takes her on a day trip to the ocean, she slowly cracks under the weight of the illness and everything it takes from them both. “Soft Music” moves deftly between the narrator’s attempts at normalcy, her heartbreak over what she’s lost, and the small moment of grace at the end that allows her to hold onto—however briefly—the mother she loves.










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