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Viet Thanh Nguyen Viet Thanh Nguyen MON, MAY 7, 2018, 7:30 PM Benaroya Hall \ S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

“We don’t succeed or fail because of fortune or luck. We succeed because we understand the way the world works and what we have to do. We fail because others understand this better than we do.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer

“Viet Thanh Nguyen really has pulled off a literary hat trick, in quick succession at that—brilliant novel (The Sympathizer), brilliant non-fiction study (Nothing Ever Dies)—and now, with The Refugees, a superb, brilliant book of stories. These books do stand apart, distinct from each other, which makes the world limned in these stories even more remarkable. These are fully human tales, what these vividly rendered characters encounter, all in some way, taking on the shock of arrival in a new land, if not departure from what had been home. This is beautiful, telling work—once again!”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

“Precise without being clinical, archly humorous without being condescending, and full of understanding; many of the stories might have been written by a modern Flaubert, if that master had spent time in San José or Ho Chi Minh City . . . [Nguyen’s] stories, excellent from start to finish, transcend ethnic boundaries to speak to human universals.”  —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

 

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016, for what the Pulitzer Prize Citation observed as “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, the adopted homeland and the 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 National Book Award in Nonfiction and the 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.

Selected Works:

Fiction:

The Sympathizer (2015)
The Refugees (2017)

Non-Fiction:

Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and The Memory of War (2016)
Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (2002)