Ru is a novel by a Vietnamese-born Canadian novelist Kim Thúy, first published in French in 2009 by Montreal publisher Libre Expression. It was translated into English in 2012 by Sheila Fischman and published by Vintage Canada.

Ru (novel).jpg
AuthorKim Thúy
TranslatorSheila Fischman
CountryQuebec, Canada
GenreMigrant literature, Autobiographical Fiction, Littérature Québecois
Published2009 (Random House)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

Plot summaryEdit

The novel tells the tale of a woman, An Tinh Nguyen, born in Saigon in 1968 during the Tet Offensive who immigrates to Canada with her family as a child.

The book switches between her childhood in Vietnam where she was born into a large and wealthy family, her time as a boat person when she left her country for a refugee camp in Malaysia, and her life as an early immigrant in Granby, Quebec. The story is told by a first-person narrative.[1]


The word ru has significance in both French and Vietnamese. In French, the word means stream or flow of money, tears or blood. In Vietnamese, the word means cradle or lullaby.[2]


Kim Thúy wrote the book in honor of the people who welcomed her and her family into their life when they first arrived. War, migration, and resettlement are themes that reoccur throughout the novel.[3]


Ru is read like an autobiography but is written as the fictional tale of migrant experiences.[2] The style of the book has been described as being an auto-fiction.[4]

The book tells the story of the first wave of Boat People who fled Vietnam[5] between 1977 and 1979 and the trauma they lived through, taking the reader on their journey.[2] It is estimated that more than 200,000 boat people fled, many of which drowned.[4]

The novel is written in 144 unnumbered vignettes, that share the memories of the protagonist in three completely different environments: Her childhood home in Vietnam, a refugee camp in Malaysia, and the town of Granby in Quebec, Canada.[1] The style of writing resembles memories shared by the narrator, which are woven together to create a narrative.[2]

The characters included in the novel are the narrator's family members, both immediate and extended, as well as friends and individuals whom she encountered along her journey.[1] The family members of the narrator are not given names, but rather given numbers. By having nameless characters, the author depersonalizes them and leaves room for interpretation.[2]

Awards and nominationsEdit

The original French edition of the novel was selected for the 2014 edition of Le Combat des livres, where it was defended by author and physician Jean-François Chicoine. Its English translation was selected for the 2015 edition of Canada Reads by film critic and Toronto International Film Festival programmer Cameron Bailey,[6] and won the competition on March 19, 2015.[7]

The English edition, translated by Sheila Fischman,[8] was published in 2012 by Random House Canada and was a shortlisted nominee for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize,[9] the 2012 Governor General's Award for French to English translation, and the 2013 First Novel Award.

  • WINNER 2015 - Canada Reads
  • WINNER 2011 – Grand Prix littéraire Archambault
  • WINNER 2011 – Mondello Prize for Multiculturalism
  • WINNER 2010 – Prix du Grand Public Salon du livre––Essai/Livre pratique
  • WINNER 2010 – Governor General's Award for Fiction (French-language)
  • WINNER 2010 – Grand Prix RTL-Lire at the Salon du livre de Paris



Kim Thúy lives and works in Canada. However, the audience, discourse, and geographical locations in Ru are taken beyond the borders of Canada.[11] The book has been published in Canada, both in English and French, as well as eighteen other countries.[4]

In an interview, Thúy describes the different perspective readers have depended on where they are from. She gives the example of people in Romania focusing on the communist regime described in the book, while people in France focused on the structure and the language used in the book.[5]

The book has been seen as controversial, especially in Vietnam where the author describes the communist history as still being recent and a sensitive topic. Thúy goes on to discuss that the history of the Boat People has not yet become part of Vietnam history. The novel Ru does not portray the communists in a completely negative perspective, which has caused controversy as a portion of the Vietnamese population blame them for the hardships their families endured.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Sing, Pamela V. (2016). Ten Canadian Writers in Context. University of Alberta. pp. 181–183.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sule, Françoise; Premat, Christophe (2016). "Remembering the migrant identity: a comparative study of Les pieds sales, by Edem Awumey, and Ru, by Kim Thuy": 137–149. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Nguyen, Vinh (2013). "Refugee gratitude: Narrating success and intersubjectivity in Kim Thúy's Ru". Canadian Literature (219): 17.
  4. ^ a b c Tovoté, Christina (2012). "Le berceau du temps, le fleuve du souvenir: La réception de Ru par Kim Thúy en France, en Suède et au Canada". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ a b "Kim Thuy on writing Ru and the Immigrant Experience". Penguin Random House Canada.
  6. ^ "CBC announces Canada Reads finalists". Toronto Star, January 20, 2015.
  7. ^ "'Ru' by Montreal's Kim Thuy wins CBC's 'Canada Reads' competition". Brandon Sun, March 19, 2015.
  8. ^ "Kim Thuy's novel Ru draws on refugee past". CBC News, March 9, 2012.
  9. ^ "Scotiabank Giller Prize short list announced". Toronto Star, October 1, 2012.
  10. ^ "Ru". Penguin Random House Canada. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  11. ^ James, Jenny M (2016). "Frayed Ends: Refugee Memory and Bricolage Practices of Repair in Dionne Brand's What We All Long For and Kim Thúy's Ru". Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. 41 (3): 42–67.
  12. ^ "Canada Reads". CBC Books. July 21, 2017.