True stories of courage

Hoa Minh Truong with three of his books. Picture: David Baylis d410430
Hoa Minh Truong with three of his books. Picture: David Baylis d410430

For six years, Truong, an ex-lieutenant of the South Vietnamese army, was imprisoned by the Viet Cong in nine re-education camps without trial along with thousands of others who fought against the communists.

During that time Truong’s guards and inmates thought he was mad because he would stare off into the distance and wave his hands.

What he was actually doing was learning English ” an act punishable by death ” by writing in the air the words he memorised from torn pages of a pocket dictionary smuggled into the camps in food packages by his mother.

‘I learned quietly. After five years the dictionary (was) done,’ he said. ‘I promised myself I (would) write a book.’

Truong, who lives in Belmont with his wife and daughter, went on to write his story The Dark Journey, Inside the Re-education Camps of Viet Cong, which was published in 2010, almost three decades after he was released from the camps in 1981.

The 65-year-old’s latest book From Laborer to Author: The Flowers in Heaven are Rooted in Hell tells his journey of leaving Vietnam in 1983 to resettle in Australia and becoming an author. From Laborer to Author was one of 120 projects chosen for the inaugural Australian Arts in Asia Awards, which recognised the significant contribution of artists in deepening Australia’s cultural links with Asia.

‘Anyone can write a book. I will always write anything that enters my mind,’ he said.

Truong’s books are available online and at the Ruth Faulkner Public Library in Belmont.