People & Culture

Our Country: Kim Thúy 

The acclaimed novelist on experiencing both kindness and lots of trips to the zoo in Granby, Que.

  • Feb 22, 2024
  • 326 words
  • 2 minutes
Illustration by Chantal Bennett
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Granby was where I first arrived, and it was my first contact with Canada. I had never seen snow, and it was amazing to see the cleanliness. When you live in a refugee camp in a war zone, it’s impossible to have this kind of silence and luminosity. And that was the first shock. 

But the most important shock was when we stepped out of the bus, and there were so many people in the hotel parking lot waiting for us. Everybody was so tall. They were giants to me. I was so skinny as a 10-year-old. All the men had big beards and coats with fur all around. As Asians, we don’t express our emotions physically. But these people were just holding us — I was not even touching the floor. I still question how they could hold us in their arms when we were covered with infections from mosquito bites and had lice in our hair. But they did not hesitate.

In a refugee camp, you don’t feel human. And then, they looked at me, and I swear to you, I had never seen myself as beautiful. But that purity in their love for us — they gave me back my humanity, my dignity, all that we had lost in the camp. The people of Granby gave me back the humanity that I had lost. From that point on, I was not an immigrant from Vietnam; I was an adopted child arriving in a new family. When summer arrived, different families would take us to the zoo. We went to the zoo every single weekend. Now I realize how expensive it was for these families to take us there. The zoo illustrates all the kindness and generosity that I have received from the people of Granby.


 – As told to Catherine Zhu

Granby is located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Abenaki, part of the Wabanaki confederacy.


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This story is from the March/April 2024 Issue

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