The Light to the Left
Tammy Nguyen The Light to the Left Intaglio and ukioye woodblock printed hand bound book
The Light to the Left
2012
Intaglio and ukioye woodblock printed hand bound book
21.5" x 27.5" closed, approximately 21.25" x 52.5" opened
Tammy Nguyen The Light to the Left

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money, a commodity accepted by general consent as a medium of economic exchange. It is the medium in which prices and values are expressed; as currency, it circulates anonymously from person to person and country to country, thus facilitating trade, and it is the principal measure of wealth.
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dementia, chronic, usually progressive deterioration of intellectual capacity associated with the widespread loss of nerve cells and the shrinkage of brain tissue. Dementia is most commonly seen in the elderly (senile dementia), though it is not part of the normal aging process and can affect persons of any age.

The most common irreversible dementia is Alzheimer disease. This condition often begins with memory loss or with subtle impairments in other cognitive functions. These changes may manifest initially as simple absentmindedness or forgetfulness or as minor problems with judgment, language, or perception. As dementia progresses, memory loss and cognitive impair- ment broaden in scope until the individual can no longer remember basic social and survival skills or function independently. Language, spatial or temporal orientation, judgment, perception, and other cognitive capacities decline, and personality changes may occur.
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During the Vietnam War, parents often told their children concise survival lessons in case they would be displaced or separated. My maternal grandmother told her eleven children: “It doesn’t matter where you end up, as long as you have money.”

When I was born, my grandmother immigrated to America to help my mother take care of me. A strict French teacher, my grandmother would nurture me through firm instructions for manner, language, and even craft—making sure I would doubly crease paper as I folded paper toys. One kindergarten afternoon, my father picked me up from school and we rushed to the hospital. She had suffered a severe stroke and half of her lights went off.

Unable to walk, lift, or go to the bathroom, my family had to hire permanent care for my grandmother. Half of her mind however, was still sharp, and you could tell because her left eye would just glare at you if you ever wanted to interact with her in any way. Shaking her bed and throwing pieces of tissue paper in the air, that left side of her made sure dinner was promptly at six everyday. As the years went by, care for her became expensive, so my family sent my grandmother back to Vietnam.

Twelve years later, I moved to Vietnam and lived with my grandmother. She no longer had any memory of who I was. In fact, the only person she could recognize was her caretaker. Every morning, I would come down the stairs and that left eye would shoot me a stare. Dropping her croissant in her latte, she would shout, “Bitch! Where is my money!?”

Sometimes, my uncle would come by. He was a fat bald man and she would be so thrilled to see him. “Budai! Budai!” she would laugh as she rubbed his belly. To my grandmother, my uncle was no longer her son, but the incarnation of “Laughing Buddha” who brings wealth and prosperity.

Then, one random day, my grandmother was eating breakfast with her caretaker. After she was done she said, “Okay, that’s enough.” The caretaker tucked my grandmother into bed and then all of her lights went off.
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