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The Tapestries by Kien Nguyen

I don't consider myself to be a very religious person, yet I participated in an all weekend long event, held at my church this year, called Urban Plunge. Teenagers from all around lower Michigan came and joined the ten or so people from my church. Everyone was split into different groups to head out around Lansing and lend a helping hand. I went to Habitat for Humanity Restore and built shelves, along with sorting various types of wood by size. I hadn't wanted to do Urban Plunge, but am glad I did. I made so many friends and realized that friends, new and old, and love make the world go round.


By working together, we ninety-eight teenagers spread our love throughout Lansing and each other. One doesn't need to be overly religious or anything to spread love, one just needs to care about others and open up their heart. With an open heart, bright minds, and love, anyone can do just about anything. Yet, not everything is going to be easy or perfect and one will encounter challenges all throughout their life. This is what Kien Nguyen is ultimately saying. My theme is about love, more specifically love tragedies. Nguyen's book is a splendid choice, as it is not the kind of love tragedy one would think of. Love comes in all different shapes and sizes, meaning different things to different people, but is what can carry one through all parts of life.

A main character of the novel, Ven, was married off to her seven year old husband, Dan, during the opening sequence. It was not what she was expecting, quite the contrary. She was married off to this young boy in order to do the biding of the Nguyen household. But slowly, she begins to care deeply for her young master. It is, in a sense, a motherly love. Dan, being young, acts like she is his mother and cares for her in such that way, though their relationship is quite strong. Through thick and thin, murder and poverty, hatred and revenge, the pair keep a bond with each other. Although they aren't lovers and are much more like family, their compassion for each other allows them to carry themselves to the next day.



Even as Ven is swept under malaria's spell, her thoughts are about Dan. What would happen to him if, in fact, malaria did claim her life? How could she keep them living in the ruins of his once great home, without proper food, shelter, or even an education? During her sickness, a daunting thought comes upon her. She must do the only thing she can to save him from the devastating way of poverty. That is, selling him as a slave to the one family who was responsible for the burning of the Nguyen house and murder of Dan's father and mothers, the Toans. Dan resists at first, wanting to stay with Ven, but eventually does as she says. Their love is strong, and even nine years after Dan was sold into the house of Toan as a slave, the two still care for each other.

Yet, out of parting came a splendor. In the household of Toan, Dan, or Mouse to keep his identity and thus life safe, is the slave to the beautiful Tai May. Growing up through the years with her, a love so deep, so powerful grows in him as well. Herein it becomes a love tragedy. Dan must hide his love for Tai May, for she is of the house of Toan, the house of which he has sworn revenge upon. He promised Ven to one day avenge his parent's death by killing Magistrate Toan, Tai May's father. Yet, Dan forgets his promise to Ven, his deep and abrasive love covering the long ago pact.

But as another tragedy strikes the village, the murdering of Minister Chin and his son Bui, Ven urges Dan to flee, who again is only caring about him. She doesn't want him to suffer the horrible fate that the rest of his family has at the hands of Magistrate Toan. His beloved Tai May helps him to escape, longing to run with him, but cannot despite what her heart says. For if she indeed did run, her father would never cease looking for her.

Before Dan had left, Ven had taught him how to embroider. Now, he not only uses his dazzling skills for money, but also to illustrate his endless abyss of love for Tai May. Haunted by her spirit, her memory, the details of her never leaving his mind, he creates tapestries for both his employers and himself. In clear detail, they depict his beloved Tai May, his passion never ceasing for her. Within these tapestries are emotions and stories of his dark past. Even though he has long since seen, or heard from Tai May, his love is like an never-ending ocean, always waiting for people to come and splash in. It is his light in the darkness, his hope in despair, his only reason to continue living.

If one can get through the struggles of life with the lending hand of love on their shoulder, how can ones without love march through life? Magistrate Toan, the murderer of Dan's family, Minister Chin and Bui, and the father of Tai May, did not have love in his life. He cared only about power and money. He had wives, five at a point, but there wasn't a bond other than marriage between him and them. He was not a kind soul, cutting out Ven's tongue, silencing her wonderful thoughts forever, violently murdering Master Nguyen and his wives, and an overall man gone mad with trying to find the Nguyen's fabled treasure.

He wanted to destroy the Nguyen family just because he thought that Master Nguyen was gaining too much power within the Cam Lee village. He was afraid of the thought of losing power, even though Master Nguyen had no intentions in a governmental position at all. And thus, ruined the Nguyen's, punishing anyone who dare speak their name, or even mention it after his destroying spree.

How could a man be a leader without kindness or love? He governed terribly, trying to squeeze all the wealth from his village so he could have it, and not the people. When one is consumed with greed, and power hungry, one forgets of the more important things. It is like sinning, at first one doesn't know that they're doing it, and if they are not paying close attention, will sin more and more until that is all they do. Without love, one is filled with an emptiness. Magistrate Toan, even to his death, only cared about treasure. He led a hollow life, one without meaning, and when his life was ending, there was no one there for him but a poor old maid, for everyone else had died or left him.

Life is about making choices. When one has love on their side, the choices are a bit easier, although not always. But without love, one is only a shell, consumed by something that is not pure. Love can do many great things for people, no matter how big, how little, how passionate, how humane it is. No matter if it's placing others above yourself or truly respecting people, love makes the world go round.





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