Friday, May 31, 2013

Tree of Saigon

This illustration is inspired by An's return to his home town of Phan Tiet, which begins on page 178 of the novel, continuing to page 183. I drew a tree to pull from the ghost tree that An describes, but also to show An's view of the city. This hope and nostalgia he holds is symbolized by a dying, withering tree, showing how An had a dream of a happy city like his memories, but these have been stunted and killed by reality.

The tree is then covered in memories, both old from An's childhood and some that are new from his return experiences. These things adorn the tree but do not necessarily grow on it, to show that An is caught between the forming of new memories and the dying of the old memories. The only exception to this is the coconuts on the floor, showing his memories of "the coconut groves" (178) have not remained as he once held them.

In the tree are things related to experiences and memories An recalls; from left to right: the tamarind pods that used to fall from the ghost tree, the monkey that is now chained to the dying star fruit tree, the red paper flowers An was once bullied amongst, a hammock like those that used to dot his city, the squatty huts and shacks that filled Phan Tiet, the star fruits that used to grow, a bicycle for the man who must bike scrap metal to feed his family, large buildings for the seemingly "urban" lifestyle that has spread into An's city, and a noose in part for the ghost tree and in part for Chi's suicide. Finally, while the coconuts rest on the ground in the grass, the roots of the tree remain suspended, symbolizing how An feels out of touch with his roots in Vietnam.

By Alex


  1. The rootlessness and random but unattached objects on the tree depict the struggle of Andrew's journey. For me, it represents a hopeful and nostalgic idea that Andrew has of his past but the harsh reality; he must consider both the past and what he discovers of his voyage to understand himself.


  2. I found this tree to be extremely wonderful and relevant to An's memoir. The tree reminds me of a saddened tree of life--a tree that is stunted in growth with all the various adversities surrounding it. It seems that the tree is hanging on to the branches (memories) it does have and trying to makes sense of what it has left. It's tragically beautiful.

  3. This is amazing! A gnarled, barren tree ripe with nothing but memories. I thought immediately of the chapter "Chi-Me" in which Andrew and Chi are talking about their Grandmother's tree, and he tells her that star fruits are now being imported. She shakes her head and says that they're "not as good as the star fruits from Grandma's tree." Your illustration captures perfectly the nostalgia that saturates the memoir.


  4. I think this tree is a beautiful symbol for the hardships in An's life. Like a tree, we all grow despite our trials and are undoubtedly left with scars that show where we came from. However, the tree can also be a hopeful symbol because they are resilient. In spite of all of the bad things that happen to it, a tree can still continue to grow and reach for the sun; much like An did.


  5. It's interesting that the tree is barren and its relationship with An's sense of Nostalgia. Can this because his nostalgia itself is intrinsically barren; without hope or capacity of reconciling it with any viable solution to his identity crisis? Its also interesting interesting too that you used something as organic as tree to serve as a lynchpin for his memories. Perhaps the memories are the flowers of his desire and hope; but the barren, sickly branches still hold on to these memories, maybe acting as An's own vulnerability to his present reality.