Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu by Monique Brinson

Monique Brinson Demery. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013. 280 pp.
Rating: Striking

"Vietnam wasn’t a country; it was a cacophony of thumping helicopter blades, flaming thatched huts, and napalmed jungles." (3)

In the vein of Truman Capote, Demery humanizes the often demonized First Lady of Vietnam, Madame Nhu. As the second daughter in a society where sons are esteemed, Tran Thi Le Xuan held the lowest status in her family. Her fortuitous fate as foretold by the family astrologer failed to garner the slightest attention. She was expected to live as the thousands of women before her—a life of domestic simplicity. Yet, her life changed dramatically upon marrying Ngo Digh Nhu. Gradually drawn into the very political intrigues she sought to escape upon marriage, Madame Nhu soon catapulted into the limelight of the Diem regime. Thrust into exile after the assassination of her husband and brother-in-law, Madame Nhu never again set foot in her beloved Vietnam.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Battling Disappointment

A couple of years back, I stopped at a small nonprofit to drop off an in-kind donation. While writing out my receipt, the Office Manager gave me a brief overview of the organization and its services. Further disclosing that their grant had been cut and the organization was in dire need of funds. As a result, the majority of the staff had been laid off leaving behind the CEO, a college intern, and himself, to work without monetary compensation.  Notwithstanding the lack of funds, by using in-kind donations the organization created a small store selling gently-used clothing, household items, and other knick-knacks to the surrounding low-income community. Charging no more than $2.00 for any item, the store provided a means to pay operational costs.  During my seventy-five minute drive home, it struck me to reproduce the nonprofit's donation model to generate funds for Cultivating You, Inc., my start-up nonprofit.

Two years and thirty donation boxes later, the appointed time drew near.