Immigrating from Vietnam to the US at the age of thirteen, Ava held onto her love of the Vietnamese language and soon after began a literary expression in her mother tongue. She became one of the few Vietnamese American writers who writes and publishes in both Vietnamese and English. In writing circles, Ava is known as Đỗ Lê Anhdao, a bilingual poet, fiction writer, editor and translator.
With the group Mai Piece, she co-founded One Mic in January 2004, the first open-mic to bring multi-generation writers and musicians to Little Saigon. One Mic quickly became a cultural community staple for the Southern California Vietnamese diaspora and sparked Ava's fire for community arts. A couple of years later, in 2006, she co-founded the online literary journal Da Màu, a borderless webzine that publishes works from Vietnamese writers around the world.
Her writings can be found on Da Màu Journal and various Vietnamese literary journals such as Tap Chi Tho, Hop Luu, Van Hoc, Viet Weekly, and Talawas. Her first bilingual book, "Her, Poems, and Other Myths of the Self..." is soon to be published by Người Việt and will be available on Amazon starting June 2015.
Here is a sample poem from "Her, Poems, and Other Myths of the Self".
May in Gò Vấp was the hottest month,
the worse time for getting white.
All day, the sun charred away
the ripe skins of green mangoes into a broken orange,
bottlebees gossiped around mesh lunch trays
and bible schoolgirls dragged their feet to afternoon mass.
May was the month of the Virgin,
we practiced all year long for the festival,
the dances, the play, and the competition.
The girl of purest illustration, and skin
took the veil, the Mary of pageant
crowned with bleach creams and
and nibbled thin.
I loved the Mother of God more than Jesus did
He left her for the world whereas I left the world
for her, left my skin for her,
took the blade to it and peeled
it off, like a good housewife preparing fruit
for her husband, nimbly, without effort.
The brown sheet of skin rolled into circles,
fell from my body and crisped in the heat.
One year, all the pale girls died in a plague,
a genetic epidemic that favored melanin,
brought to that small Catholic village by a tourist.
He was English, or maybe he was French, maybe Spanish,
he died, first, then his textbook heroines.
Black eye sockets hollowed in their white faces,
the villagers wept, and I wept,
the only girl left, a virgin, skinless,