As I drove towards the Field's Corner Branch of the Boston Public Library, I couldn't help noticing the french bakeries, the fish markets, the curling Asian script. In fact, Dorchester Avenue has become quite Saigon-esque in ambience. I found myself wondering if this was an easy transition for the neighborhood. Did these new immigrants receive a genial welcome in that established, mostly African-American community? Or have the Vietnamese been resented as they set up stores, banks, Buddhist temples, pawn shops, and beauty salons?
I should know more about this, especially as I've lived in Massachusetts for five years now. But I have to confess that this is only the second time I've left the leafy western suburb I call home to venture into Dorchester. (The first was when the boys were in second grade and I drove one of their bussed-in friends home after a play-date at our house.) So, can anyone out there tell me the story of Dorchester? Or should I get on the net and do the research?
After my presentation at the library, a beautiful Vietnamese girl approached me. "You wrote this book," she asked/said, holding up a copy of Monsoon Summer. "It's all about-chew, right?"
I nodded and tried to hide my surprise. She looked Vietnamese, but her accent sounded exactly like the African-American ones on the rap/hip-hop radio station my kids listen to. Maybe that encounter answers my question about Dorchester better than the archives of the Boston Globe. Immigrant kids have an uncanny knack of making themselves right at home.