Our tour kicked off unofficially the night before the Elliott Bay reading at the house of my cousin Shelly and her husband Nick. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered to help us celebrate, and I even did a small reading—my cousin’s Kathy and Lisa selected a passage about the importance of pies in our family (yes, Pacific Northwest pies are related to Vietnamese food—just read Chapter One in Communion to find out how!) It was amazing to sit before these people who mean the most to me and read, because it is with them that I first discovered the value and beauty of communing around a table.
Cousins and Aunt Norma ... always an appreciative audience.
The next day, Sunday afternoon, more than seventy people filled the audience at the Elliott Bay Book Company. A healthy portion was made up of family members, but there were also former colleagues from my days of working at Elliott Bay, high school friends, and college pals. Our lovely version of This Is Your Life. A pretty terrific life, I might add, given those who came … some of our favorite people in the whole world. As well, Rick Simonson, the store’s buyer and driving force behind the store's acclaimed reading series, joined the crowd, which really made me feel like I’d arrived. (When I worked at the bookstore, Rick was the reason so many exceptional authors came to read, and I was in awe of him.) As with all three readings, I read passages from the book that illustrate how the people of Vietnam led me to a love of the food, and Jules shared slides while explaining why it’s such a pleasure to photograph the people and food of Vietnam.
A full house at Elliott Bay.
Signing books for friends and family.
In Bellingham, the crowd of more than thirty included just a handful of friends and family members. The rest were all curious strangers, who asked lots of interesting questions (we could tell we were in a college town). Afterward, everyone hung around to enjoy fresh spring rolls that we’d brought from Saigon Boat in Seattle (2632 Alki Avenue SW). If you’re ever down on Alki, stop in for a bowl of pho or grilled pork with fresh rice noodles. The banh mi sandwiches are excellent too (we stocked up on those for our road trip to Portland).
Serving spring rolls to the audience.
Our third and last reading was at Broadway Books in Portland. What a fantastic bookstore. Although the crowd was much smaller, it was made up of people close to our hearts, from my high school best friend and college roommate to my high school boyfriend’s parents and our old youth pastor and his wife. As Jules and I read and spoke, it felt as if we were at a reunion in the living room of a close friend. Afterward there was lots of catching up and more spring rolls from Saigon Boat.
It was satisfying to have such enthusiastic crowds (and of course sell lots of books), but most satisfying was to have so many people we love come out and help us celebrate. It felt good to share the Vietnam part of our lives with the important people from our past.
Many thanks to everyone who came, listened, and bought books. For those who would still like a book, Elliott Bay, Village Books, and Broadway Books all have signed copies. Please order from them and support local independent bookstores. Each of these stores was such a generous host, as well as a reminder of what important community gathering places a local bookshop can be.
More photos from the tour can be found on the Communion Facebook page, I’ve been told these links are public and you do not have to sign in to view them. Drop me a note if you can’t see them, and I’ll send photos another way.
Photos from the Elliott Bay Book Company reading
Photos from the Village Books reading
Photos from the Broadway Books reading
Lastly, a thousand thanks to Kurtis Lowe who went above and beyond to set up the readings, drive us around, run the slide shows and, bottom line, make this wonderful week possible.