Lucky Ticket

Joey Bui

Lucky Ticket
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Lucky Ticket

Joey Bui

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 Vietnam 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

Review

There is nothing quite like reading a wonderful collection of short stories – I believe that the power of fiction to mentally transport us is at its strongest in this shorter, punchier format. Joey Bui’s debut collection is polished, wide-ranging, and absolutely has the capacity to transport the reader.

The stories here engage with themes of migration, expected roles within families, race and class privilege, and loneliness. Bui writes with great intelligence, and has a precise ability to balance the good with the bad, and the abject with the banally familiar – some of her stories have a feeling of passed-down family tales, but under her authorial hand, they manage to be simultaneously contemporary and real.

The prose here is juicy, polyphonic, and refreshing – so many sentences warrant underlining. Bui writes what she knows, but applies this aphorism with flexibility. She is a Vietnamese–Australian who has studied in Abu Dhabi and the US, and this lived experience runs through the book, but in ways you might not expect. Some of the stories in Lucky Ticket are based on interviews she conducted with Vietnamese people who have refugee backgrounds. There are stories set in Vietnam and amongst the Vietnamese diaspora. Some are gritty, some are fable-like. All of them have something to say. Others don’t have anything to do with Vietnam at all, but with other migrant communities. In a writing culture that is often awash with tales of middle-class, white suburbia, Bui centres on people whose lives have been touched (and often times totally reshaped) by migration. This is a welcome, and much needed, shift. While many true stories have been fictionalised here, imbuing the book with real-life histories gives the collection a sharpness and sense of unease that makes scenes from its pages hard to shake.

Bui is an incredibly talented young writer, and we should all be taking note of her name.


Ellen Cregan is the marketing and events coordinator.

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