She is a Haunting is a chilling atmospheric horror about a haunting house and the colonization that took place there.
In Vietnam, She is a Haunting follows Jade, who is bribed into spending time with her father at an old French colonial house. But for Jade, the trip brings out more than her anxiety. It awakens a ghost determined to destroy them.
She is a Haunting is a unique horror story. Jade is a bit of a rough character to connect to. Still, even if the reader cannot connect to her, they can empathize or even sympathize with her.
Jade is Vietnamese. Her parents were born in Vietnam and then sent to the US for better lives at a young age. But being in Vietnam has created this disconnect for her. She knows very little about the culture and barely speaks the language. A foreigner in her own country. In America, she wasn’t American enough; now, she is not Vietnamese enough in Vietnam.
While she struggles with this part of her identity, she also must deal with her sexuality. Early on, the novel establishes her as bisexual, but she prefers women.
Her father found her diary at a young age and slapped her for thinking about girls. This traumatized her, making her feel as though she had to stay in the closet or lose her mother’s love.
It is a constant struggle for her, those thoughts returning to her as she thinks about her mother and how she keeps parts of herself secret and locked up around her. And all because her father got stuck in his archaic thinking, traumatizing her.
Her father plays a huge part in the novel, especially regarding the haunting.
Like Jade, he also feels he is not Vietnamese enough for his family. So when his mother died in Vietnam, he left his family, blaming Jade, a child. That scene proves he is a coward who cannot accept his failings or find his own way in the world. He was so caught up in his own need to be in Vietnam he abandoned the family he made.
But this allows the ghost of the house to ensnare him.
The house is haunted not by one but by two ghosts. One ghost is a racist French woman who calls the natives savages and treats them as intruders, as if she was not the one who invaded. Then there is the bride. She married into the family to protect her village and people, creating a barrier between her and her family.
She became a woman without a home, connecting to Jade profoundly and emotionally.
She Is a Haunting is such a deep and thought-provoking novel. Touching on the effects of colonialism through a horror lens helps build up the novel’s gothic atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is too much to unpack about the book, making it worthy of discussion and reading.
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