Fortunes rise and fall. One day you have a lucky ticket and get a dinner so good and you eat so much that you think you’ll never need to eat again. You get busy making plans and then the hunger comes looking for you. I’m just an old man selling lucky tickets, but my theory is that we all get our turn in the end. I’ve had my turn at fortune. It was some years ago, maybe 2002, because I remember that was when Sài Gòn was less red and bright with fried chicken signs everywhere.
A highly original collection of stories by a talented young writer. In the comic-tragic eponymous story, ‘Lucky Ticket’, the narrator, a genial, disabled old man, whose spirit is far from crushed, sells lottery tickets on a street corner in bustling Saigon. In ‘Mekong Love’, two young people in a restrictive society try to find a way to consummate their relationship—in an extraordinary tropical landscape.
In ‘Abu Dhabi Gently’, a story of dreams and disappointment, of camaraderie and disillusionment, a migrant worker leaves Zanzibar to earn money in the UAE in order to be able to marry his fiancée. ‘White Washed’ depicts a strained friendship between two students in Melbourne, the Vietnamese narrator and a white girl. What does it mean to be Asian? What does it mean to be white? And what makes up identity?
In Lucky Ticket, Joey Bui introduces a diverse range of characters, all with distinctive voices, and makes us think differently about identity, mixed-race relationships, difficulties between family generations, war and dislocation.
Joey Bui is a Vietnamese-Australian writer. She graduated from New York University Abu Dhabi, where she completed her first collection of short stories, Lucky Ticket, based on interviews with Vietnamese refugees around the world. Joey has been published in journals and magazines in the U.S. and Australia. She is currently studying at Harvard Law School.
The immediate appeal of this collection of short stories is the striking colour and movement that imbues the characters, setting and narrative of each story—it’s a vibrant read. Within this environment, Bui delivers bolts of warmth, humour, despair, poignant reflection and enduring kinship. The book is also brimming with nostalgia, with Bui’s writing perfectly encapsulating Vietnam, a location superbly rendered here. Bui presents streetscapes, temporalities and relations that we want to inhabit.
In a year where a number of short story collections emerged as some of the most impressive entries, Bui’s Lucky Ticket was among the choice few that provided the freshest of perspectives and an exuberant and exciting voice. This is a book we found ourselves wanting to carry around, look at, repeatedly leaf through and show off to people. It is full of fresh, daring writing and delicious, tangible worlds,and the book and Bui’s talent are both absolutely needed on the Australian literary-scape.
‘Bui’s narratives are profound and unforgettable.’ Cassandra Atherton, Australian Book Review.
‘The experiences of people of colour reign supreme in this collection with the few white characters, distinguishable only by their privilege, otherwise relegated to the margins.’ Sonia Nair, Books+Publishing.