I was born in Hanoi on February 27, 1939. My natal village is My-Tho in the district of Binh-Luc, Ha-Nam Province, North Vietnam.
My father, Nguyen-Cong Phung, was born in 1898. He died in 1976. Before 1954, he was a low-ranking official of the Hanoi
Tribunal. My mother, Nguyen-Thi-Yen, was born in 1900. She died in 1970. She was a little merchant.
I have two sisters: Nguyen-thi-Hoan, who was born in 1923 and Nguyen-thi-Hao who was born in 1925. Nguyen-Thi-Hao died in Hanoi
in November, 2004. Nguyen-Thi-Hoan lives in Haiphong with her family.
When my parents died I was in a concentration camp called Phong-Quang in Lao-Cai Province. Once, my sister Hao visited me there at
the request of my mother before her death. My sister's visit for the purpose of telling me of the death of my mother was the only
family visit that I received while imprisoned for fifteen years. This was not due to callous disregard on the part of my family;
it was due to deliberate constant changes of prisons and camps by the regime. Because I was not imprisoned with trials, they did
not know where I was. They had to hear from released prisoners where I had been, but I would be likely to be moved by that time.
Political prisoners were shuffled regularly by jailors so they would not form associations for rebellion or escape.
My brother is Nguyen-Cong-Gian; he was born in 1932. He was a lieutenant-colonel in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and,
like all other officers, was imprisoned in a re-education camp after the communist victory in 1975. His term was for thirteen
years (1975-1988). He and his family came to the U.S.A. under the Humanitarian Operation (H.O.) Program, a joint agreement between
the U.S. and Vietnam allowing political asylum for military officers of ARVN who had been imprisoned in Vietnam for more than three
years. My brother and his family came to the U.S. in 1993, and have lived in Virginia since then. Because the times of both of our
imprisonments and surveillance in our homeland did not allow us to meet, I did not see my brother Gian from the time of our youth
until I arrived in the U.S.A. on November 1, 1995, a period of forty-one years. He and his family met me at the Dulles Airport.
My family was poor, but my parents did their best to give their sons and daughters a good education. It was beneficial to be the
youngest in the family because the older ones helped me to learn. For example, my sister Hao taught me the French language at age
six just as she had been taught in the colonial French schools. This longtime use with the language may be the basis for my
interest in French novels and poetry as relaxation. My brother Gian was always studious and serious, whereas I was more interested
in boxing and swimming as a youth.
During the Resistance against the French Army, which broke out on December 19, 1946, my family walked with our belongings on our
backs to My-Tho, our natal village, fifty miles from Hanoi. We lived in the home of a nephew of my father. This was because Hanoi
was a battlefield in the war between France and Vietnam and we were fleeing danger. Everyone in Hanoi went to the countryside of
the many regions of their births at this time.