Monthly Archives: July 2020

Chubby mangoes


The Coconut Children (2020) published by Vintage (Penguin Random House Australia) amalgamates an intense teen spirit that breaks through intergenerational trauma, lyrical prose, and an incredible human insight that belies the author’s age. Essentially a bildungsroman novel that you won’t find in the YA section of your favourite bookstore or library due to its sophistication. Pham is now just nineteen but was only a teeny sixteen when she penned the first draft. Set in Sydney’s Cabramatta in the late 1990’s the story follows sixteen year old Sonny and her childhood friend Vince as they navigate their journey back to each other after Vince’s two year stint in juvie. Pham’s voice is unique and quite unforgettable. Her mangoes are chubby and her handsome troubled boy drinks sugar cane juice.  It is set firmly in the present as we only get the odd rare glimpse of the past, such is the pain it represents. The story of Sonny and Vince unfolds and takes flight from under the heavy blanket of traumata their parents and their wider community, experienced as Vietnamese refugees. Balancing the trauma is the beauty of the writing and arc, the teenage crush we are introduced to at the beginning and the depth of the real connection that is realised, can only be revered and coveted. Well done Vivian Pham.