This is our first-ever mother and daughter guest combination on the podcast. I am delighted to bring you this conversation with Lan Cao and her daughter Harlan Cao, co-authors of an amazing book entitled Family in Six Tones.
Lan Cao is an acclaimed author who was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1961, a turbulent time in that country’s history – which would only get more turbulent. During this time, she found solace in books and stories. In 1975, as South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam, Lan was adopted by an American officer and went to live in the United States. Her parents followed several months later. Lan began American high school and her initial time in the USA coincided with loneliness, loss of country and at times hostility. In that, she again found solace in reading. So, it is perhaps not surprising that – during and after a career in law – she became a writer.
Family in Six Tones is a dual person memoir by Lan and Harlan. Harlan is 18 years old and starting university. She obviously has a very different upbringing from Lan. The contrast in cultures and personalities makes this book incredibly interesting through its interwoven chapters written by both Lan and Harlan. Lan describes struggling to find her place in the USA as a 13-year old refugee through to being a mother, and the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Harlan describes her own struggles and challenges which are different to that of her mother.
In all of this, there is something quite universal that fits many of the themes of our show around dealing with uncertainty, risk and setbacks. We cover so much ground in this episode – Lan discusses her life in Vietnam, moving to the USA, geopolitics. Harlan and Lan discuss cultural differences – particularly between the individual and the collective, we focus on uncertainty, and tons more.
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