Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui
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.