Celebrating World Book Night with Vietnamese author Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

A large audience surrounding Nguyen Phan Que Mai smiling and holding books

Wimbledon BookFest kicked off its author events for Merton libraries supported by new Arts Council England funding with a wonderful packed-out event.

It was a wet and windy World Book Night on Monday 24 April. But the weather proved no deterrent for the 200-strong capacity crowd that packed out the event space at Wimbledon Library.

They braved the rain to hear award-winning Vietnamese journalist, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai discuss her debut novel and international best-seller, The Mountains Sing, with Sofie Akel, Founder and Director of the Free Books Campaign.

Endings and beginnings

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s author’s talk was her final in-person event in London to promote new her new book, Dust Child. Translated from the term bui doi – “life of dust” or “dusty life” the title of the novel refers to Amerasians born to the American GIs and Vietnamese women in the shadow of the Vietnamese war.

It was also the first free event to be delivered as part of a three-year creative partnership which will see Wimbledon BookFest and Merton libraries host literary events in libraries across the borough. At a time when many arts organisations have seen a reduction or lost funding as a result of government plans to invest less in cultural services in London, Merton’s libraries are bucking the trend. They have recently been awarded Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status and funding to invest in cultural opportunities. And that is something Anthony Hopkins, Head of Merton libraries, Heritage and Adult Education is proud to celebrate. “Events like this one are such a positive thing for libraries and the borough,” he says.

More Wimbledon BookFest events at Merton Libraries

“Libraries are the home of literature,” Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai told the audience at Wimbledon Library. And Wimbledon BookFest Director, Fiona Razvi promises there are more library events for lovers of literature in the pipeline. “On 20 June crime writer Joy Kluver will launch ‘Murdered in Merton,’ with an author event followed by a crime writing workshop on 24 June. There’s a Big Read planned for Merton in the summer as well as Manga writing workshops for young people.” There’s also good news too for those who missed Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s talk this time. She’s returning to speak at Wimbledon BookFest this autumn.


Author Nguyen Phan Que Mai on stage smiling Vietnamese Author Nguyen Phan Que Mai An audience member asking a question into a microphone
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