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BOOK LAUNCH: Son of Vietnam – A family’s epic quest for freedom


Father Kim Son Nguyen and author Paul Calleja pictured with a physical copy of “Son of Vietnam – A family’s epic quest for freedom”. Photo: Matthew Lau.

By Matthew Lau

In a recently released book titled Son of Vietnam, Father Kim Son Nguyen describes how his people suffered throughout Vietnam’s era of conflict and how he appreciates the freedom and choices allowed in Australia.

The Bassendean Parish Priest co-authored the paperback with Bedford parishioner Paul Calleja, depicting a true story of the Nguyen family’s 10-year quest for freedom from communist-controlled Vietnam.

Fr Son officially launched his book after mid-morning Mass on Sunday 1 December 2019 at St Joseph’s Church, Bassendean Parish.

Present for the event were parishioners, book contributors, parents and teachers of St Michael’s School, and other invited guests.

Fr Son moved to Australia in 1991 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2000 after years of formation at St Charles’ Seminary.

The idea for the book, he said, was to preserve his family’s stories for future generations. Religious freedom and the practice of faith are topics addressed in the 179-page piece.

Son of Vietnam was released last year as a gift to mark his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.

“My father wished to write a book a long time ago in Vietnamese,” Fr Son told The Record.

“Millions and millions of people suffered more than we did.”


Bassendean Parish Priest Fr Kim Son Nguyen stands alongside Bedford parishioner Paul Calleja during the “Son of Vietnam” book launch on 1 December 2019. Photo: Supplied.

Although he usually attends Mass at Bedford Parish, Mr Calleja grew up in Bassendean and came to know Fr Son through the duty of regularly driving his elderly father to Mass.

“Dad was 89; [he] couldn’t drive safely. It coincided with Fr Son arriving at Bassendean,” Mr Calleja recounted.

“Fr Son was using his homilies to get his parishioners acquainted with him. He told stories of Vietnam, I listened intently because I am interested in history – my brother was called to service in Vietnam.

“I had just finished another project and was just fascinated with Fr Son’s story, so I approached him, and put [the idea of a book] to him. After some time, he said his family were interested for him to go ahead with it.”

The book, he added, is the product of an unlikely union.

“It is my Father’s story but my expression.”

Son of Vietnam took more than five years to develop, which Mr Calleja said was far longer than they had anticipated due to interruptions.

An aspect of the book that Mr Calleja highlights is the fact that it is written in English.

“The generation [of Vietnamese people] reared in Australia can have a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the sacrifices and contribution that their ancestors have made to allow them to enjoy these benefits,” Mr Calleja alluded.

“I think this is often flacked by the generation of migrants, a lack of appreciation and knowledge.”

Son of Vietnam charts Fr Son’s family’s movement from the communist north, their resettlement and growth in the non-communist south, the upheaval of their lives 21 years later by the communist capture of Saigon, and the subsequent 15 years of struggle to escape the religious, political and economic oppression that characterised this period of Vietnamese history.

Their epic quest for freedom was pitted with episodes of destitution, family dispersion and betrayal by family and friends in addition to times of imprisonment, near death experiences, piracy, sea rescues, years in refugee camps and the tragic loss of two of the family’s youngest children.

Despite these grim challenges and experiences, the conclusion of their collective endeavours aims to inspire and amaze the reader.


To purchase of a copy of “Son of Vietnam – A family’s epic quest for freedom”, contact publisher Eric George Nguyen of Nell Gray Fashions Pty Ltd on 1300 640 446.