I’m not like a lot of men I know. I’m attracted to strong women. Dependent, weak-willed women don’t appeal to me. In part, my preference reflects my way of judging people—I admire physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual strength, and while I’m touched by frailty, it’s not a quality I have much liking for, in myself or anyone else.
Put differently, I want to be with independent women who want to be with me, not those who have to be with a man because they can’t manage on their own. I love the idea of two strong individuals who spend time with each other because they choose to, not because they need to.
As a consequence, the characters in my novels are most often tough and resilient. That includes the women. Two of the five principal characters in Last of the Annamese are women. One, Molly, is American; the other, Tuyet, is Vietnamese.
Both face risks because of the men they choose for lovers. Both are in peril for their lives as the fall of Saigon looms. Neither flinches.
Molly at the beginning of the novel doesn’t seem especially courageous. But she has volunteered to serve in a war-torn city (Saigon) where death is never far away. Before the end of the story, she has chosen to help others because she’s so moved by the Amerasian orphans she cares for. She has the guts needed for the job.
Tuyet is of a different sort. She is of the royal family of Vietnam, a princess, forced to marry a commoner for the good of her clan. It takes courage for her to put aside her royal pride and face the fall of Vietnam to the communists.
Both characters are drawn from women I knew during the final days of Vietnam. My admiration for their bravery in the face of severe adversity has never waned.