Author Viet Thanh Nguyen is featured on the Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International hosted by John Hockenberry. Listen to the full interview in the audio player or read the transcript below.
It’s the second and final day of President Obama’s visit to Vietnam. After ending a decades-long arms embargo that had been placed on the country, the president will end his trip with a visit to Ho Chi Minh City. The city was once known, of course, as Saigon — the capital of South Vietnam, and the home of French and American troops fighting the Communist North.
But that’s just one part of a history that the American and Vietnamese governments consider to be in the past.
“Over the past century, our two nations have known cooperation, and then conflict, painful separation, and then a long reconciliation,” President Obama said in Hanoi on Monday. “Now, more than two decades of normalized ties between our government has allowed us to reach a new moment. It’s clear from this visit that both our peoples are eager for an even closer relationship; a deeper relationship.”
Despite Obama’s gentle words, has there really been a reckoning with the Vietnam War? That’s a subject heavily infused in the book “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen, the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Nguyen grew up in a world divided. His parents fled to South Vietnam in the mid 1950s before moving to the United States in 1975 when South Vietnam fell to the North. Nguyen says that we all have a long way to go before we can lay the past to rest. Click on the ‘Listen’ button above to hear our full interview.