Audio-book Review
 By Chet Yarbrough

Blog: awalkingdelight)
 Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Build Your House Around My Body

By: Violet Kupersmith

Narrated by: Quyen Ngo

Violet Kupersmith (American Author, Taught English in the Mekong Delta on a Fulbright Program.)

This is the debut novel of Violet Kupersmith. “Build Your House Around My Body” is an interesting title that cleverly infers human life is built around women, not because of their role in birthing but because of their influence on the other half of humanity.

Kupersmith’s novel suggests the male half of humanity is more maleficent than beneficent. Women are characterized as diabolical in pursuit of revenge for their treatment as less equal human beings and sex objects of men.

Kupersmith’s story is complicated and surreal which may discourage many listeners. On the other hand, its history reminds one who may have visited Vietnam or Cambodia of Southeast Asia‘s different cultural history and mythology. Though animism and the supernatural are less present in America, Kupersmith implies they are ever-present phenomena in the lives of indigenous Vietnamese.

Animism and the supernatural are a distinct part of southeast Asian culture.

There are two main characters, but the most prominent character is Winnie, a woman of mixed southeast Asian and American parentage. She travels from America to Vietnam to become a teacher of English in an adult education class. She seems ill suited for a teacher’s job but perseveres and becomes the mistress of one of the teachers. Kupersmith’s story revolves around the disappearance of Winnie from a house in which she cohabits with this fellow teacher. The story begins with the mysterious disappearance of Winnie. Winnie becomes a vehicle of revenge through possession by a spirt who lives in the body of a dog.

With various journeys through time from the date of Winnie’s disappearance, a listener is given a history lesson on the iniquity of Vietnam’s foreign occupation.
French Rubber Plantation in Vietnam.

During France’s occupation of Vietnam, rubber plantations were formed by French colonists who employed Vietnamese laborers to harvest their crops. Kupersmith implies Vietnamese men and women who worked on these plantations were underpaid and abused by plantation owners.

Kupersmith implies the folly of foreign occupation of an indigenous people’s culture.

What foreign invaders often do not understand of countries they occupy is that occupiers are as likely doomed to failure as assimilation and success. Both occupied and occupier become victims of cultural ignorance. “Build Your House Around My Body” is a cultural tautology. One becomes who they are by the culture in which they live.

Kupersmith introduces soothsayers and spirits who can change their form, occupy other life forms, deform themselves, and find those who are lost while liberating or condemning those whom they choose.

Animist Celebrations in Modern Vietnam.

During Kupersmith’s explanation of colonial times, one is entertained and horrified by indigenous peoples’ belief in animist spirits who wreak havoc upon the world.

“Build Your House Around My Body” is bizarrely addictive. Winnies experience in Vietnam exposes her to poverty, sexual exploitation, and belief in a spirit world that influences, if not controls, all that happens in people’s lives. Reader/listeners of Kupersmith’s story find how potent animist and spirit-world’ belief can be while revealing the iniquity of sexual inequality.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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