THE PRINCIPAL'S DAUGHTER Wins Dog Ear Publishing Award
When Russ Katz heard the story a hair stylist in his building was telling about her life in Vietnam and how she came to the United States, it stuck with him. Eventually he decided the world needed to hear her story, and the result is "The Principal's Daughter," based on Tran Lê Kim Tuyen's life. Katz's book has earned the Dog Ear Publishing Award of Literary Excellence - and has led to at least one unexpected reunion.
Katz couldn't be more thrilled. "I was excited to hear about the award of excellence," he said. "I immediately told everyone around me at the time. To think that something I wrote could even be considered - it made my day."
Dog Ear Publishing's editorial team determines award winners, with the managing editor, editorial services manager and the publisher reviewing its recommendations. Winning books include the award logo on their covers.
Although Katz is happy about the award, it's a reunion that took place as a result of his research that makes him most proud. "While telling me the story, Kim had remembered the soldier's name her family was friendly with (in Vietnam). It wasn't a common name, so later that day I did a little research and found him living just two hours away."
Nearly a year later, Kim and her sister Joanna met for dinner with that soldier, Robert Toporek. "I learned the soldier had spent considerable time looking for Kim's sister (who had moved to America before the war ended) and she for him as well," Katz said. "The looks on their faces when they saw each other after 40 years was priceless."
"The Principal's Daughter: Based on the True Story of Tran Lê Kim Tuyen" describes Kim's life starting as a happy 10-year-old playing among trees. When the Viet Cong marched just 100 meters from her home near Saigon and began attacking the nearby U.S. Army base, her life changed forever. She and her family spent that night in 1968 huddled in a makeshift cellar, fearing for their lives when their home was caught in the crossfire.
"While Kim was cutting my hair, she started telling me about where she was from and how she came to the United States. Her daring boat escape, being fired upon and thrown in jail. This story rang through my head in so many different scenarios I couldn't stop thinking about it," Katz said.
"Although the Vietnam War has been a source of controversy for many decades, I don't think people really understand why the war began in the first place. Although I didn't go into this in much detail, I hope people could see the beautiful place Vietnam was before the war and the impact it had on them after it ended. Hollywood only tells the stories of the soldiers, but what about the people the soldiers went to try to protect, what happened to all of them?"
Dog Ear editor Leslie Wilhelm Hatch writes that the book gives a view of Vietnam that probably few people have thought about. "Russ Katz's story telling style is very approachable - it's very emotional, but not overly so - he lets the facts and the people tell their story without bias or political overtones. The fact that the story is true makes it even stronger. Katz is able to share a lot about Vietnamese culture, growing up in Vietnam, the war itself (how it affected the characters), the country's customs, and the workings of Communism. He shares all this in the context of the story - so not only was I entertained and enthralled, but I learned a lot as well."
"This manuscript tells an extraordinary story, a story that deserves to be told to as many people as want to know about it," writes Terry Hummer, editor and publishing consultant with Kevin Anderson & Associates. "The material is rich, the characters are vivid, and the narrative itself is riveting and moving. I don't think I've ever read a piece of prose that so galvanized my attention. Whatever you do with this, keep Kim's spirit alive. She is a Personage. You are lucky to know her. I am lucky to know something about her now."
Kirkus Reviews describe the book as "an absorbing taste of the everyday in a place that that was the victim of superpower geopolitics. ... An important contribution to primary-source oral histories of Vietnamese people."
The author finds it funny he would choose to write a book, much less a second book. (His first was "Evolution," a science fiction novel published in 2012.) "I was never good at reading or writing in school; it was my weakest subject," he said. "I never found joy in reading until just recently, really just the past year or two. It is somewhat a love-hate relationship. I love the finished product and just how the accomplishment makes me feel."
Katz has set up monthly promotions for "The Principal's Daughter" through BookDaily.com and plans to do more marketing. Katz, who grew up in East Brunswick, N.J., lives in Fairfax, Va.
For additional information, please visit www.RussKatz.com
The Principal's Daughter: Based on the True Story of Tran Lê Kim Tuyen
Dog Ear Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4575-4892-5 304 pages $15.95 US
Available at Ingram, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and fine bookstores everywhere.