Mai Donohue is a writer, beloved home cook, and re-tired educator of special needs students. After leaving Vietnam in 1970 she and her husband Brian settled in Barrington, Rhode Island. They have seven children and thirteen grandchildren. Mai holds a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island, an accomplishment that was the culmination of more than twelve years of study. Mai is known in her community for supporting various charitable causes with her delicious Vietnamese cooking. A PBS short documentary about Mai's life was nominated for a New England Emmy award in 2006.
This vivid, compulsively readable memoir of courage, grief and redemption illuminates the life of Mai, a young girl from Vietnam's rice fields, who risks everything to escape poverty, abuse and war. Her battle is not against soldiers but against her neighbors and a thousand years of tradition. Born during Ho Chi Minh's revolution against the French, she was just a baby when his followers in the village, out of spite, came to her home one night and murdered the men in the family, driving her mother mad with fear and rage. She was fourteen when her mother forced her to marry and have a child with a brutal man who beat and tortured her, finally leaving her for dead beside the road. Recovered, she ran away with her infant son, only to discover there was no place for them. To save her baby's life, she returned home in disgrace, only to face the Viet Cong. In desperation she escaped again, leaving her child in safety, she thought. On Saigon's deadly streets, with no identity papers, she became an outlaw, hiding from her ex-husband, grieving for her lost child. Homeless, penniless and pursued, only her dream of freedom kept her alive. Then one day she would meet a saintly woman, who gave her hope, and an Irish-American naval officer, who gave her love. Crossing the Bamboo Bridge is a tale of mothers and daughters, and of their children. It is a tale of war, and grief, and a young girl's dreams. It is a stunning epiphany of hope where there is none, of courage in the face of despair, of love, respect and freedom.