The “Real Personages” of The Sympathizer

The author writes about the real people who appear in his forthcoming novel, The Sympathizer.

I received the copyedited manuscript of my novel today. Attached to it was a style sheet where the copyeditor had made some interesting lists drawn from my novel, including key words (“chastity-locked,” “Great American novel, the,” “goddammit,” “scotch,” and “whiskey” were among them), a timeline, character names, and “real personages” that appear in the novel.


So here are those real personages, who together foreshadow many of the novel’s concerns:


Beauvoir, Simone de

Borgnine, Ernest

Brando, Marlon

Buttinger, Joseph (Vietnam scholar)

Capone, Al

Chandler, Raymond

Chernyshevsky, Nikolay

Coburn, James (actor)

Columbus, Christopher

Coward, Noël

Crosby, Bing

Davis, Angela

Didion, Joan

Duc Huy (Vietnamese singer)

Emerson, Ralph Waldo

FitzGerald, Frances (Vietnam War journalist; won Pulitzer)

Fonda, Jane

Ford, Gerald

Ford, Tennessee Ernie (singer)

Gable, Clark

Gabor, Zsa Zsa

Gardner, Erle Stanley (author, Perry Mason)

Gauguin, Paul

Goebbels, Joseph

Guevara, Che

Hayworth, Rita

Hedren, Tippi (actress)

Hepburn, Audrey

Heston, Charlton

Ho Chi Minh

Holden, William (actor)

Holiday, Billie

Hope, Bob

Joplin, Janis

Khanh Ly (Vietnamese pop singer)

Lee, Bruce

Lenin, V. I.

Loren, Sophia

Mao, Chairman

Marcos, Imelda

Marcos, Ferdinand

Marx, Karl

Mitchum, Robert

Murphy, Audie (decorated soldier, WWII)

Ngo Dinh Diem (first president of South Vietnam)

Nguyen Du (Vietnamese poet)

Nin, Anaïs

Nixon, Richard

Pham Duy (Vietnamese songwriter)

Phan Boi Chau (Vietnamese nationalist)

Phuong, Elvis (Vietnamese pop singer)

Presley, Elvis

Reagan, Ronald

Rooney, Mickey

Sinatra, Frank

Springfield, Dusty

Summer, Donna

Taylor, James

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thieu, President

To Huu (Vietnamese poet)

Trinh Cong Son (folk singer)

Wayne, John

West, Mae

Whitman, Walt

Williams, Hank

Williams, Tennessee

Category: Essays


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. nan merritt says:

    The war in Vietnam was /is a milestone in my life. As an anti war American having graduated high school in 1964 and just recently visited Vietnam for the first time. This book is a revelation, filled with the hard truths that we failed to understand about the war, the American’s role and the disastrous effects on the Vietnamese people.
    Thank you so much for this incredible book.

    • admin says:

      Thanks, Nan Merritt, for your kind comments about The Sympathizer. I’m glad the book was meaningful for you.

  2. Just read your oped in the NYT. It presents a nuanced position on the war. Personally I was opposed and left the States in ’69. Your family left Vietnam as refugees somewhat later. But the military industrial establishment continues.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mr. Hillstrom. While forty years have elapsed, it does seem that war remains embedded in American society.

  3. Andres Vart says:

    Thank you for your work. And congratulations!!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful post on the limits of the Caputo review. It does indeed overlook a great deal of writing by Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans, including Tran Van Dinh, Le Ly Hayslip, Monique Truong, Andrew Lam, Andrew X. Pham, lê thi diem thúy, Nam Le, Vincent Lam and Kim Thuy (they’re Canadian but at least North American), Aimee Phan, Dao Strom, Nguyen Qui Duc, Mai Elliot, Lan Cao, Barbara Tran, Truong Tran, Mong Lan.