Author of The Sympathizer, Nothing Ever Dies, and The Refugees, scholar, and winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Viet Thanh Nguyen deftly lays bare the Vietnamese-American experience across genres.
Jamie Ford, celebrated author of Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, will be our in-conversation partner with Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Rick Simonson of Elliott Bay Book Company sums up the meteoric rise of Viet Thanh Nguyen: “[He] really has pulled off a literary hat trick: brilliant novel (The Sympathizer), brilliant non-fiction study (Nothing Ever Dies)—and now, with The Refugees, a superb, brilliant book of stories.”
Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016. The Pulitzer Prize Citation called the book “a layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a ‘man of two minds’—and two countries, Vietnam and the United States.”
His second book, the short story collection The Refugees, gives voice to characters between two worlds, their adopted homeland and their country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a testament to the hardships and hopes of immigration.
Nguyen was born in Buon Me Thuot, Vietnam, and came to the United States as a refugee in 1975 with his family and was initially settled in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, one of four such camps for Vietnamese refugees. From there, his family moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and eventually settled in San José, California, opening one of the first Vietnamese grocery stores in the city. After high school, he briefly attended UC Riverside and UCLA before settling on UC Berkeley, where he graduated with degrees in English and Ethnic Studies. He stayed at Berkeley for a Ph.D. in English, moved to Los Angeles for a teaching position at the University of Southern California, and has been there ever since. He is currently the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
Nguyen’s other honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. His other books are Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Nonfiction and the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction), and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America.
Nguyen is also actively involved with promoting the arts and culture of Vietnamese people in the diaspora through The Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN) and diaCRITICS, DVAN’s blog for which Nguyen is the editor. He is also on the steering committee for USC’s Center for Transpacific Studies, which encourages the study of how cultures, peoples, capital, and ideas flow across the Pacific and between Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands.
Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (2002)
Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (Co-editor, 2014)
The Sympathizer (2016)
Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (2017)
The Refugees (2017)
Jamie Ford is the great grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. His debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to win the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. His work has been translated into 35 languages. His latest novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes was published September 12, 2017.