Well Read: Viet Thanh Nguyen / The Refugees

Viet Thanh Nguyen talks about his second fiction novel, The Refugees with Terry Tazioli for Well Read, a TV program about books and their noted authors.

Pulitzer prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen shares with Well Read audiences his second work of fiction, The Refugees. A book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.


Viet Thanh N.: When The Sympathizer came out, people talk about that book as an immigrant novel and me as an immigrant author, and those things are completely inaccurate. So I have to continually insist that I’m a refugee, not an immigrant. Very important distinction. And that Sympathizer is a war novel, not an immigrant story. And the reason why I have to keep saying that is because Americans like to believe they’re an immigrant country. If they say immigrants, that allows them to absorb people into the American dream and refugees are much more threatening. I have to insist on that distinction.

Speaker 2: The Refugees is sort of like a refugee primer. Is there one story that’s the most important to you?

Viet Thanh N.: It’s the opening story, Black-Eyed Women. The Refugees took me 17 years to write, from 1997 to 2014. And Black-Eyed Women is a story that I began with in 1997 and the story that I ended with in 2014. Took me 50 drafts. It almost broke me as a writer, but because I survived, I learned how to become a writer.

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Category: Interviews


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