Thursday, March 29, 2012

Aimee Phan's "The Reeducation of Cherry Truong"

Aimee Phan grew up in Orange County, California, and now teaches in the MFA Writing Program and Writing and Literature Program at California College of the Arts. A 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, Aimee received her MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where she won a Maytag Fellowship. Her first book, We Should Never Meet, was named a Notable Book by the Kiryama Prize in fiction and a finalist for the 2005 Asian American Literary Awards. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Oregonian among others.

Here she shares her vision for casting an adaptation of her new novel, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong:
If The Reeducation of Cherry Truong ever became a film, I’d prefer Vietnamese actors to play the central roles. Listening to a fake Vietnamese accent sounds like nails on a chalkboard for me. But given how few Asian American actors, much less Vietnamese, there are in the mainstream media, we need to cast a wider net.

We follow Cherry from ages eight through twenty-one, so we’d probably need at least two actresses to encompass her journey. For the adult Cherry, I could imagine standup comedian Rosie Tran because she is just quirky enough to handle her transformation from awkward, chubby teenager to ambitious, but conflicted premed student.

Cherry’s older brother, the charming, tragic gambling addict Lum, would be a dream role for any young Asian American actor. Perhaps John Cho or Parry Shen, who have both demonstrated extreme likeability and complexity in their past roles.

For Cherry’s beauty pageant cousin Duyen, I could imagine Youtube internet sensation Michelle Phan. I know she is a makeup guru, and not necessarily an actress, but this could be her ideal debut. And she could do everyone’s makeup!

Tony Leung, with that gorgeous, long-suffering face, would be perfect for Yen, the middle brother who anchors the Truong family in Paris. And because I only like him kissing Maggie Cheung on screen, and she is just wonderful when despondent, she could play Yen’s wife, the haunted, unbalanced Trinh.

Dustin Nguyen, of 21 Jump Street fame, is now old enough to convincingly play Cherry’s overworked, embattled father Sanh, while Maggie Q of Nikita fame, who is half Vietnamese, would make a fierce, glamorous Tuyet, Cherry’s young mother.

Kieu Chinh, so beloved as the deceased mother in The Joy Luck Club, could certainly bring the sympathy and tenderness necessary for Grandmere Hoa in Paris. Kim-Ly, the crafty, snarky grandmother in California, is the trickiest to cast: I’d want a senior version of Margaret Cho in that role because the character can be so funny, audacious, yet heartbreaking at the same time. Perhaps the actress who played Margaret’s sitcom grandmother, Amy Hill? Anyone who played Kim-Ly, frankly, would need to be a scene-stealer.
Learn more about the book and author at Aimee Phan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Reeducation of Cherry Truong.

--Marshal Zeringue