Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

'The next Amy Tan'.(Youth Express)

Byline: Story by Polly Summar Of the Journal

Young Vietnamese author's mature work wins her the SouthWest Writers' Young Writers' Contest

When Ngan Dam (pronounced Nahn Dahm) moved to the United States from Vietnam in 1994, she knew one sentence: "This is an apple."

Six years later, she knew enough English to win first prize in the fiction category of this year's SouthWest Writers' Young Writers' Contest.

It was the signal she had asked for. "Before I went to Germany in the summer on an exchange program, I had asked God for a sign that I should be a writer," Dam, 18, recalls. "When I came back, there was the letter saying I had won."

Lisa Lenard, chairperson of the Young Writers' Contest, said Dam entered in all three categories nonfiction, fiction and poetry and was a finalist in all three.

"It's very unusual for someone to have that caliber of writing," says Lenard. "Her writing is so mature that it's stunning that she's a high school student who has only been speaking English for six years. The first screener who read her fiction said, 'Oh my god, the next Amy Tan.' ''

Dam's entry was the first chapter of a book-in-progress called "Rice from Laos," about a 19-year-old girl named Rice who lives with her mother at the border of Cambodia and Vietnam. …

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