What We All Long For

Creating to Belong: Tuyen's Artwork in What We All Long For College

In Dionne Brand’s novel What We All Long For, each of the central characters attempts to define and redefine what it means to belong through their own experiences and interactions. For Tuyen, belonging is not defined by identifying with specific communities, but by fluidity and progression through these defined aspects of identity. Tuyen’s lubaio (an art installation, the basis of which is a sign post made of railway ties) works as a central symbol that represents this evolving definition of interpersonal belonging for the artist. Ultimately, Tuyen’s relationships with both her family and Carla are re-examined and redefined through the process of completing this installation.

The state of Tuyen’s lubaio at the beginning of the novel mirrors her disrupted sense of interpersonal belonging with her family. When the lubaio is first introduced, it is described as being a “mess of wooden rails and tree stumps, twigs and rope, debris” (Brand 14). At this stage, the lubaio is merely a collection of materials that could dictate what the final product will be. When describing the installation to Jackie, Oku and Carla, Tuyen admits that she “still [has] to think it all through” (17), suggesting that the piece is far from its final form....

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