cover image Bronze Drum

Bronze Drum

Phong Nguyen. Grand Central, $17.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-5387-5370-5

Nguyen (Roundabout) shines with this portrayal of two sisters’ heroism in ancient Vietnam. Set over seven years during the Bronze Age, when the Han Dynasty ruled what is now Northern Vietnam, the story follows Viet Lord Trư ng and Lady Man Thiệ n of Cung Diệ n Mê Linh, who raise their daughters Trư ng Trac and Trưng Nhi to rule as men’s equals. Instilled with the religious beliefs and values of the Viet traditions, the girls struggle to conform to the forced assimilation of patriarchal Confucian culture. This struggle comes to a head when Lord Trưng is executed by order of the Han government. Together, Trưng Trac and Trưng Nhị raise an army of Viet women to retake their hometown from the Han and free the Viet people. Throughout, Nguyen returns to the traditional bronze drums as symbols of Viet pride and culture, scorned by the Han: “She wanted to demand that he respect the instrument.... An object forged with such care, one that took on a thousand meanings... should not be a gift to dismiss lightly.” Bronze drums echo throughout the story, leading the Viet sisters in peace and in war. Readers will not want to put down this epic feminist page-turner. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (Aug.)