Books

 

The Refugees

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was one of the most widely and highly praised novels of 2015, the winner not only of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction but also the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the California Book Award for First Fiction. Nguyen’s next fiction book, The Refugees, is a collection of perfectly formed stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.

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With the coruscating gaze of The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led 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 captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

The second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

Grove Press, 2017. Read more about the book here.

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Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War

“Beautifully written, powerfully argued, thoughtful, provocative.”—Marilyn B. Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990

Thirteen years of fieldwork and research have gone into this book, published by Harvard University Press in April 2016 and a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction. From the descriptive copy of the book:

All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War—a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.

Nothing Ever Dies coverFrom a kaleidoscope of cultural forms—novels, memoirs, cemeteries, monuments, films, photography, museum exhibits, video games, souvenirs, and more—Nothing Ever Dies brings a comprehensive vision of the war into sharp focus. At stake are ethical questions about how the war should be remembered by participants that include not only Americans and Vietnamese but also Laotians, Cambodians, South Koreans, and Southeast Asian Americans. Too often, memorials valorize the experience of one’s own people above all else, honoring their sacrifices while demonizing the “enemy” —or, most often, ignoring combatants and civilians on the other side altogether. Visiting sites across the United States, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Viet Thanh Nguyen offers penetrating interpretations of the way memories of the war help to enable future wars or struggle to prevent them.

Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.

Advance reading copies will be available for reviews in early December. Please contact Michael Giarratano for a copy at michael_giarratano@harvard.edu.

ISBN 9780674660342, 310 pages, 43 halftones, $27.95 • £20.95 • €25.00

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The Sympathizer

“A magnificent feat of storytelling. A novel of literary, political and historical importance.” — Maxine Hong Kingston, author of Fifth Book of Peace

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The novel, The Sympathizer, begins in April 1975, as Saigon is about to fall to communist invasion. Soon enough it does, and the war is over. Or is it?

cover frontBlack comedy,  historical novel, and literary thriller, The Sympathizer follows a nameless spy who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army and flees with its remnants to America. His mission: report on their efforts to continue their lost war. As the aide to a general who refuses to admit defeat, he observes the struggles of the Vietnamese refugees to survive in a melancholic Los Angeles. Among them, the general believes, are communist agents. So our spy’s double life continues, hunting communists while helping the general organize a covert army. Their mission: to invade Vietnam and take it back.

Neither America nor a double life is new to our narrator. He is Eurasian, his father a French priest, his mother Vietnamese. He has been a double agent since his teenage years, and in his college years, he studied in California, the better to learn American culture. His war is a psychological one, but as he slowly realizes, much of that war is fought within himself, a man in between races and countries. As he tells us from the beginning: I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.

The Sympathizer was published by Grove/Atlantic in spring 2015, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. The UK edition from Corsair will come out in February 2016.

“Magisterial. A disturbing, fascinating and darkly comic take on the fall of Saigon and its aftermath and a powerful examination of guilt and betrayal. The Sympathizer is destined to become a classic and redefine the way we think about the Vietnam War and what it means to win and to lose.” —T. C. Boyle, author of T.C. Boyle Stories I and II

Read more about the book here.

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Race and Resistance:

Literature and Politics in Asian America

9780195147001Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America is Viet’s first book (Oxford University Press, 2002). Beginning with Onoto Watanna in 1896 and ending with Lois-Ann Yamanaka in 1996, Race and Resistance looks at how Asian American literature has played an important role in the politics of Asian Americans. Through their literature, Asian American writers have recorded the struggles for survival, equity, justice, memory, and representation that Asian American populations were so often denied. Not surprisingly, Asian American literary critics have tended to use Asian American literature as a lens through which to examine Asian American politics, both in terms of what Asian Americans experienced and what those experiences have to say about American culture, history, and politics.

Race and Resistance raises questions about the current project of Asian American Studies that are essential considerations for the future development of the field.” — American Literature

Race and Resistance is available in hardcover, paperback, and Ebook from Oxford University Press. Read more about the book here.


 

Transpacific Studies:

Framing an Emerging Field

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Recognizing the increasing importance of the transpacific as a word and concept, this anthology proposes a framework for transpacific studies that examines the flows of culture, capital, ideas, and labor across the Pacific. These flows involve Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The introduction to the anthology by its editors, Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyen, consider the advantages and limitations of models found in Asian studies, American studies, and Asian American studies for dealing with these flows. The editors argue that transpacific studies can draw from all three in order to provide a critical model for considering the geopolitical struggle over the Pacific, with its attendant possibilities for inequality and exploitation. Transpacific studies also sheds light on the cultural and political movements, artistic works, and ideas that have arisen to contest state, corporate, and military ambitions. In sum, the transpacific as a concept illuminates how flows across the Pacific can be harnessed for purposes of both domination and resistance.

Transpacific Studies is available from the University of Hawaii Press. Read more about the book here.