Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

P&P Live! Viet Thanh Nguyen | THE COMMITTED with Tommy Orange

Viet Thanh Nguyen speaks with Tommy Orange about The Committed for Politics and Prose.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is in conversation with Tommy Orange, author of the national bestseller There There. Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.

Read the transcript below.

Jessica Williams-Sullivan: Extraordinary times. At any point during this event, you can click on the link in the chat to purchase The Committed on the Politics and Prose website. Additionally, you can ask the author a question by clicking on the Q&A button, which can be found near the bottom of your screen. And we’ll try to get to everyone’s questions and we apologize in advance if we don’t have time to address yours. Finally, we want to thank you for being here with us tonight. We are so thankful to our family, loyal customers for keeping our business and our spirit of love. It is now my pleasure to introduce tonight’s speakers. Viet Thanh Nguyen is an award winning New York Times best selling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Some honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association among numerous others.

Jessica Williams-Sullivan: He’s the author of The Refugees, The Sympathizers and most recently The Committed, which is a knocked prime story filled with violence, identity and meditations on whether the corners can ever be free. And tonight he’ll be in conversation with Tommy Orange, who is the author of the best selling novel There There, which also won the 2019 American Book Award. He is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. Please welcome Viet Thanh Nguyen and Tommy Orange to P&P Live.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Thank you, Jessica. Hey, Tommy.

Tommy Orange: Hey, Viet. How are you?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I’m good. How are you doing?

Tommy Orange: Well, I just got my second shot of the vaccine. So if something weird happens during our talk, I apologize.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I have no such good news.

Tommy Orange: What phase of the pandemic life are you in? We’ve been through so many different ones.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I’ve gotten my first dose and I hope many of our visitors today who have gotten at least one dose too. Waiting for a couple more weeks on the second dose and now I’m doing this very weird thing that I don’t know if you had a chance to do this, but the virtual book tour where I travel the world from my seat here in Pasadena, my basement.

Tommy Orange: I was going to ask you about that because when the thing hit, for me, I had been saying yes way too much, and I’d been out on the road quite a bit and I didn’t realize until I stopped. We all had to stop to some degree. But for authors traveling for their books, there was a certain amount of stopping that maybe not everybody had to do. So what was that like for you, I’ve been wondering?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I think the exact same situation. My wife is happy that I’m not traveling as much because before the pandemic, I was on the road a few times a month and now, I have tons of engagements, but I can just do it here in the basement, which means I’m free now to spend a little more time with my kids and just be present at home. And so that’s a huge relief. But honestly it’s getting a bit much. It’s like exactly a year into the pandemic. It’s a bit much. And I think the last time we saw each other was in Paris, I just want to this because it sounds awesome. And everybody in the audience is like, “Oh my God, really? You saw each other in Paris.” Yeah. We saw each other in Paris and we had a bottle of champagne. That’s what I’m looking forward to once this pandemic is over.

Tommy Orange: I’ve kept that little line in my back pocket for trying to as organically use it as possible to be like, I was having dinner with Pulitzer Prize winning author in Paris. But our meeting there was actually a really powerful one for me. I mean, it was fun and our sort of like dinner with your friend and then our after dinner talk about sort of analyzing the time with your friend was especially fun with my wife and our sons hanging out. But just finding out that you were doing a sequel was really meaningful for me. And maybe this breaks us into talking about the book because it’s sort of when I had thought of it and I really to do it, but it seemed like low brow and it seemed like a sequel is like a sellout and there’s a lot of like dirty words that I associated with sequel and I wanted to find a way to reframe it that was like it’s a continuation of the people’s lives or different ways to talk about it.

Tommy Orange: But then the more that I got to thinking about it and after sort of feeling like I got the blessing from you and that you were doing it too, I started thinking about plot and craft and showing versus telling and all these sort of rules about writing and stuff that is changing and the people who are being published as the landscape is changing. And I’m sure you have a lot of thoughts on this, but because you do this in your work, this idea of highbrow, lowbrow, like this idea of like having action and spy thriller and things really happening and violence and scenes with like long died tribes against colonialism in general, white people as it plays out around the world, I’m just wondering what your thoughts around creating a sequel, what qualms you had? And just to talk a little bit about this highbrow, lowbrow idea, these high register, low register and the idea of sequel being associated with like superhero movies or sell out or this kind of thing.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I have no problem with selling out. Okay. I’m crass. From the very beginning, I make no pretensions to being highbrow. I’m a refugee or come from a refugee background and I grew up with refugee parents who hustled. They were constantly hustling. I grew up watching my parents work 12 to 14 hour days every day of the year. And what was deeply impressed upon me was one, the necessity for hard work, number two, the necessity to get paid. All right? And I went to very elite schools, had some very wealthy classmates and all of that. And you brought up the friend that we were having dinner with in Paris. This was a guy who was my high school classmate, but we didn’t hang out together.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And then all of a sudden I was in Paris and I discovered he was living two blocks away. And I mean, this guy, very nice guy, but he deals in financial stuff I don’t even understand, but he took me to like this very elite exclusive club in Paris in the mansion that was the former home of the Rothschilds. And here is like you have to be like an oil tycoon or the people who service oil tycoons to have a membership. And so I have no problem selling out because these people, not my friend necessarily, but these billionaires and all this kind of stuff, this old money, they got all the money and why do we have to feel guilty about making some money here? That’s number one. Okay. So don’t feel guilty about making money. Now that doesn’t mean though that you have to compromise the art.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And so that’s the big challenge, right? Like how do still make some money, but not compromise the art. And again, here I’m crass because I have no problems with sequels and trilogies and all of that. And I love the so called genre fictions like whether we’re talking about spy novels or crime novels or fantasies or romances, people love stories and they love sequels and sequential stories. I’m talking about readers here and I’m a reader, so why not give readers what they want sometimes? And that works well in the so-called genre context, but we have to remember, like Shakespeare did sequels, right? Then we have to read like King Henry IV part one and part two or Richard III, I don’t remember all the sequels that Shakespeare did, but guy did sequels. He was doing sequels before the Marvel Comics Universe was doing sequels.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And if we talk about people like Updike, he did like The Rabbit trilogy. So there’s like high literature that is in sequential form. We talk about someone like Louise Erdrich, she builds whole universes. And I don’t know if she calls her books technically sequels, but they explore the same set of characters and relationships. So anyway-

Tommy Orange: And the Bible essentially has a sequel.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yes. There you go. So our conversation was really, I think, more about should you do it and what would that look like? And I already saw some comments in the chat like, “Yes, Tommy write the sequel to There There.” Of course he should write the sequel to There There. And for me in writing the sequel to The Committed, one of the challenges was how do you do it and make it be a standalone novel? So this is for all the readers out there, if you haven’t read The Sympathizer, shame on you, but you don’t have to have read it to have read The Committed because it’s been written in a way so that there’s enough recall of previous events. So you can just jump right into The Committed.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And so for There There, I mean, I think those are some of the same challenges like how much continuity to have and how much to whether it’s going to be a standalone book or whether people should have read the first to understand the second. And those are just sort of aesthetic decisions that each of us as writers has to come up with.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. And I think initially, because right before the pandemic, I sold the sequel and so I had no problem getting the money. And I think I was writing something very sequelly and I got some editorial notes and then just time, a lot of the time is what it takes to understand what revisions need to be made. And now it’s something different and I’m really happy with it and feel like I’m sticking to my artistic vision or whatever. But you have something in The Committed that is very convenient for allowing it to be standalone because I feel it’s a very standalone book. And this is the confessions, which the first book are. They sort of serve as this is why we’re getting some information from the first book. It’s a very convenient… I’m sort of envious of how convenient that is. So did you mastermind that? Like when you were writing it, did you write that in knowing that that was a way that you were going to be able to talk about the first book in the second book?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. I mean, all of us who are writers when we start off, I think we have to make certain kinds of decisions that lock us down for the rest of the book. And with The Sympathizer, I knew that it was going to be a first person book. And what I knew was that I wanted the first person narrator to be talking to somebody. I have this hangup that when we read a first person narrative in a book, oftentimes it’s a complete fiction because we have no idea why this first person narrator is saying what he or she, or they are saying, right? So in The Sympathizer I wanted a reason for that first person narration to happen and the reason eventually turned out to be a confession that he was writing. And it worked out perfectly, not just for that reason, but because I wanted The Sympathizer to be a book with a Vietnamese person speaking to a Vietnamese person, because that meant that I would not have to explain things.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: If the implied audience is not your own community or the community of the narrator, oftentimes it tempts you to explain stuff, like to explain the history or the language or the culture or whatever. And I feel like that’s automatically a concession to a dominant audience that is to say like basically white people for the most part. And so The Sympathizer avoids that problem by making Vietnamese to Vietnamese. And so in The Committed, I wanted that to continue, but also again, I needed the reason like why do we have this book here? And so he ends up in another situation where again, he has to write a confession in The Committed, so it’s a different set of circumstances, but nevertheless, he ends up in that same situation. And you’re right. I mean, it’s a nice little narrative device if you can find a way to make it happen in your novel.

Tommy Orange: I mean, I wouldn’t say that a reader coming to The Committed having not read The Sympathizer is going to be thinking, oh, this is a convenient device. It’s just me very much thinking about like these problems of writing a book that’s a continuum, but a standalone at the same time. I just had that thought. So you do so something very different in The Committed in terms of the first one being this confessional style. And I won’t ruin the ending about what the second book ends up being, but this one feels more voicey because you do things with POV that are very interesting and there’s a sort of course of ghosts that is in it. And can you talk a little bit about your decision to do some of the structural things you did with voice and POV in The Committed? I think it is very compelling and very new to read, which was really exciting.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, I wanted the book maybe to do something a little bit different than The Sympathizer. We’ve already had the confession, we’re going to have another confession. And part of the narrative is that our narrator has been pretty deeply damaged by the end of the sympathizer. And then we have him now in The Committed and he’s going to undergo more damage before he writes the second confession that is the novel. And so if we’re seeing the world through his eyes and he’s the one writing this confession, maybe he’s not completely in his right mind. And I wanted to try to convey that if you’re not completely in your right mind, your way of narrating a story may not be the more conventional way of narrating a story. And there was no plan in advance. Like I didn’t plan that there would be some shifts in the perspective of the narration, for example, or that there would be shifts in the typography every now and then, I just let myself be carried by the flow of writing.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And I think this is kind of important. I mean, for me, part of the writing process is rational. I map out certain parts of the book in advance. But part of the writing process is intuitive. I don’t know how it is for you, but I just have to give in to what I feel at a certain moment, take a risk, take a chance, and also be playful. So I have a seven year old son, I’ve learned a lot from having children. And one of the things I’ve learned is that children don’t respect rules. And as you get older, you learn to respect the rules or many of us do and you become these rule bound adults and the corollary in literature is that you could become a really rule bound writer, like you know that there are certain kinds of conventions that you should follow.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Watching kids or my son is like he’s learning rules, but he also doesn’t care sometimes and do whatever he wants. I watch him play. It’s very liberating because I’m like, oh my God, he really loves stories, like he’s watching Scooby-Doo and he’s totally into it, totally into it. And when he is playing, he goes outside the front yard, he’s playing his fantasy games and everything, he’s totally into it. And then he’s reading Dog Man and various kinds of kids literature and the children’s authors, they don’t care about rules because they know their audience. So they’re tapping into this total playfulness and I felt I wanted to capture some of that in The Committed, which means that, yes, I think I break certain conventions and I also just make whimsical decisions about here I will use the Chopstick font just because I think it’s funny when we talk about Orientalism and white people are saying orientalist things to put it in the Chopstick font just to make sure we understand. So that kind of stuff.

Tommy Orange: Ours is Papyrus, the native font is called Papyrus. Speaking of breaking rules, so there’s this writing rule and people get very sort of they adhere to these certain writing rules that when you first hear them you think there’s no way you can break them because this is obviously authority figures speaking on what good writing is. And there’s not much flexibility in the way that people teach this sort of show, don’t tell. It’s one of the golden rules of writing. And I feel like what you do so beautifully and playfully, and this is something that is full of voice, the way that the narrator delves into history and the history of colonization and people’s relationships and countries and getting into the French culture, I don’t think I really realized the extent to which France as a country is a colonizer and the places that they’ve colonized. I think of America as the capital city colonizer being a native person from here.

Tommy Orange: And then it took sort of going to some places outside of the country to be like, oh yeah, this is something that happens all over the world to all sorts of different people. But back to what I was saying, you have made a decision that’s a voice decision, but it’s also a novel of ideas decision to have these sort of like at length telling parts. And I think it works beautifully. And I think sometimes I pick up a random book and I read a random bio on the back and it says this or that MFA that I’ve heard of and I have come to respect or whatever. And I read the work and it’s really boring because it’s so predictable and it so follows all the rules perfectly and it kills the writing and it kills voice.

Tommy Orange: And I feel like something that you do so wonderfully in all of your work, but in The Committed, is this balance of things happening, these amazing plot and spy thriller things happening, this like sort of heist stuff, drug dealers, gangsters, these seven jobs. But then you have these long expansive moments of just talking about history and like I said, colonization. So can you just talk a little bit about your decision there and maybe the voices in your head, the old voices saying show, don’t tell. And I’m sure there are old voices at this point, but you know the voices well I’m sure.

Viet Thanh Nguyen:

Yeah. Well, that’s a great comment and question. Let’s start off with the colonization issue because I think when we grow up within a country and we absorb the dominant ideology of the country, the mythology that the country tells itself, it’s maybe hard for us to be aware that colonization has or is taking place because it’s simply a part of what this country is. So the United States, I like to say, a lot of Americans think no, we’re not a colonizing power, that’s what the French did or the English did, we’re a democracy. And I like to say, oh yeah, we are a colonizing country, except we call colonization the American Dream. So we mask the history and the contemporary issue of colonization for native peoples through this rhetoric of the American Dream and the immigrant.

Viet Thanh Nguyen:

And you can be whatever you want to be. And the immigrant or the refugee like me comes in and we’ve, in my case, fleeing from a colonizing situation and then we become as settlers, the alibi for the colonization that’s taking place here in the United States. So you can point to the refugee or the immigrant and say, “Hey, we’re a great country.” And then you forget. The refugee and the immigrant can’t forget what’s happening. So then in France, I think it’s the same thing. A lot of the French… The French are… If you’re reading New York Times, the New York Times is doing a lot of articles on the French and their struggles with race and gender and colonization and some of the French are blaming Americans for introducing the consciousness of these ideas into France and wrecking their universalist harmony.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And I’m like that’s a good thing because they’ve totally normalized, many of them, the history of their own colonization. And in the case of Indochina, that is Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, a lot of French people have no idea what happened. I mean, they sort of vaguely know that this happened, but they don’t know the details of it. And that’s partly what The Committed is designed to do is to make sure like in The Sympathizer, I think the French cut off easy, but in The Committed, I want to make sure I offend the French by telling them what I think of as the truth of what they did in Indochina. Now, when I decided to write these novels, The Sympathizer and The Committed as confessions, it was designed to do exactly what you’ve brought up, which is to allow me to tell rather than just show because I think you’re right that I think the dominant sort of aesthetic for contemporary American literary fiction and a lot of genre fiction is that is realism.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: That is just show things and don’t intrude as the author to tell us what to think. And it works. In a lot of cases it works really well in genre fiction because it works with making the plot move really quickly. But when it comes to the world of the MFA, I’m in agreement with you, I think we have a literary industry in this country and if you want to become a writer, the path is very clear from undergraduate creative writing to graduate school and creative writing to the New York publishing industry. And you can be trained to be a very competent writer if you follow that track and you know what the rules are because what you’re basically doing is producing a commodity that pretends that it’s not a commodity, but instead it pretends that it’s literary fiction, even though we all know what it’s supposed to do.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And so showing rather than telling is really crucial to this commodity, because what you’re not doing is interrogating the system of power and ideology in which the literary industry is implicated. All right? So I want to define an aesthetic reason by which I could tell rather than show and that’s what a confession does. So even though you’re reading novels and The Sympathizer and The Committed, you participate in the fiction that it’s actually non-fiction that you’re reading because there are confessions. And in a confession, you don’t have to adhere to show, don’t tell. Actually, the whole point of the confession is to tell.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And so our narrator is telling about himself, telling all on himself, but he is also telling us exactly what he thinks about the United States, about France, about colonization, about racism, about all these kinds of issues, about which he is a very opinionated person, just like me. But hopefully his opinions are interesting and hopefully his opinions are funny and biting and it’s also really crucial that he punches up against power, but he himself is being punched unfortunately as the butt of so many of history’s jokes.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. And I think having him be half French and half Vietnamese and not belonging, allows a lot of that his positioning to never really… He’s always punching up essentially because he doesn’t find himself belonging to anything. I wondered if you have a little bit something you’re going to read. I just listened to the audio book. I just finished listening to it. I had read the advanced reader copy obviously, and then found out that the same voiceover actor from The Sympathizer, who I thought was fantastic, did this one and it was done beautifully. I just finished being a judge for an audiobook award and I wanted to ask you if this guy had gotten any kind of award or nods for his performance, not for this one, obviously, but for Sympathizer.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. Unjustly. No.

Tommy Orange: Did he get-

Viet Thanh Nguyen: As far as I know.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. I think he’s fantastic.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: The actor is Francois Chau and he’s actually got a really interesting background because he is also of Vietnamese descent and I think he was born in Cambodia. He’s older than I am, a little bit older and then he was born in Cambodia, but then he migrated pretty much immediately, I think or soon after birth to the United States and grew up as an Asian American. And so he’s an Asian American actor and I actually saw him in like plays and movies before he agreed to do the book. Now, the thing about Francois is that he has a deep gravelly, very masculine voice unlike me. So yes, I will read a little bit, but just rest assured that yes, you can go and listen to the audible version of The Committed and he’ll sound much sexier than I do. So this is from the beginning of the book.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: There’s a prologue and The Sympathizer ends in 1981 with The Sympathizer having fled Vietnam on a refugee boat. That’s where we end the story and The Committed opens up exactly at that same moment as these refugees from Vietnam are on the open sea and here we go. We the unwanted wanted so much. We wanted food, water, and parasols, although umbrellas would be fine. We wanted clean clothes, baths and toilets, even of the squatting kind since squatting on land was safer and less embarrassing than clinging to the bullwork of a rolling boat with one’s posterior hanging over the edge. We wanted rain, clouds and dolphins. We wanted it to be cooler during the hot day and warmer during the freezing night. We wanted an estimated time of arrival. We wanted not to be dead on arrival. We wanted to be rescued from being barbecued by the unrelenting son.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: We wanted television, movies, music, anything with which to pass the time. We wanted love, peace and justice, except for our enemies, whom we wanted to burn in hell, preferably for eternity. We wanted independence and freedom, except for the communists who should all be sent to reeducation, preferably for life. We wanted benevolent leaders who represented the people by which we met us and not them, whoever they were. We wanted to live in a society of equality. Although if we had to settle for owning more than our neighbor, that would be fine. We wanted a revolution that would overturn the revolution we had just lived through. And some we wanted to want for nothing. What we most certainly did not want was a storm and yet that was what we got on the seventh day. The faithful once more cried out, “God help us.” The nonfaithful cried out, “God, you bastard.”

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Faithful or unfaithful, there was no way to avoid the storm dominating the horizon and surging closer and closer. Whipped into a frenzy, the wind gained momentum. And as the waves grew, our arc gained speed and altitude. Lightning illuminated the dark furrows of the storm clouds and thunder overwhelmed our collective groan. A torrent of rain exploded on us. And as the waves propelled our vessel ever higher, the faithful prayed and the unfaithful cursed, but both wept. Then our arc reached its peak and for an eternal moment, perched on the snow capped crest of a watery precipice. Looking down on that deep wine colored valley awaitingness, we were certain of two things. The first was we were absolutely going to die. And the second was that we would almost certainly live. Yes, we were sure of it, we will live. And then we plunged howling into the abyss. So he ends up in Paris of 1982.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I’m just going to read you a very short bit here because once he gets to Paris, he as I mentioned, has been deeply traumatized by the events of The Sympathizer. And he’s going to make some very bad decisions and one of those decisions is that he’s going to become a drug dealer. And here he’s going to tell us a little bit about that decision. Was I actually becoming the most horrid of criminals? No, not a drug dealer, which was a matter of bad taste. I mean, was I becoming a capitalist, which was matter of bad morals, especially as the capitalist unlike the drug dealer would never recognize his bad morality or at least admit to it, a drug dealer was just a petty criminal who targeted individuals. And while he may or may not be ashamed of it, he usually recognized the illegality of this trade. But a capitalist was a legalized criminal who targeted thousands if not millions and felt no shame for his plander. So hopefully that gives you a little sense of what the novel is about and its style.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. That prologue is fantastic as is the epilogue, which obviously you cannot read. But the epilogue is fantastic. Can you talk a little bit about… Well, first of all, because at some point I’m going to be asking questions that people are asking in the Q&A and if people just throw those into the Q&A, I’ll just like sort of mix them into the conversation between now and the end. Could you talk about the decision to have drug dealing and drug taking be an element? It seemed really natural in the reading of it and I sort of am doing that in my next book as well. It’s a big component. So could you talk about the introduction of that idea of him becoming a drug dealer and being involved with gangsters, et cetera?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. I mean, I like crime stories. I think they’re very entertaining. And in crime fiction, the so-called genre of crime fiction, one of the reasons why I like it and one of the reasons why I like spy stories is besides the fact that they’re entertaining and they’re plot driven and they keep the pages turning for those of us who are fans of these genres, one of the reasons why they’re interesting is that spy writers and crime writers are oftentimes quite political and historical. I mean, they set their stories in historical circumstances and often evoke certain kinds of politics like wars and things like that. And I think that the good crime writers or the really interesting crime writers understand that individual crimes are nothing compared to social crimes. The individual crimes are interesting partly because they’re just manifestations of the crimes that society commits as a whole.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: So if a crime writer doesn’t have that kind of awareness then you just get an action story, but if a crime writer has that awareness, you get the action story, plus you get the commentary about the society, right? So in the case of drug wars, I’m a big fan of Don Winslow, go read his Border Trilogy. It’s sort like the war and piece of drug stories but it’s all about the cross-border drug war, so-called drug war between the United States and Mexico. But Don Winslow is very smart so he leads us all through all the mechanics of drug running and all that kind of stuff. But he’s very clear in pointing out that these drug wars are actually political wars that originate in the United States, that originate from American consumers and American political actions.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And in the end, he compares the drug wars between the US and Mexico as simply another manifestation of the perpetual warfare state of the United States. And I think to me, that’s the right reading, right? And so that’s what I wanted to do in The Committed. Number one, to entertain the reader, entertain myself, telling a story about crime, drugs, violence, gangsterism, all that is taking place in The Committed as the Vietnamese or ethnic Chinese Vietnamese gang that our sympathizer gets involved with gets involved in a drug war, turf war with the rival Algerian gang. But of course that’s part of the political commentary. Like why are the ethnic Chinese and the Algerians fighting over drug turf? They both come from colonized countries, shouldn’t they be allies together as brothers under French colonization? And of course that’s not how reality works out.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: The people who have been racialized and colonized oftentimes are pitted against each other and take their angers and their frustrations out against each other rather than punching up towards the colonial power. So I think that was a major reason for including the crime stuff in there and just to have fun because drugs are always fun I think but that’s my personal experience.

Tommy Orange: I love that perspective on crime and writing about crime and being sure to have that. I just came across it myself in the process of writing my next book the idea of who is committing the crime and why and sort of contrasted with who is obeying the laws and why, and this idea of like, what is the sacred law that people think is in place and who is it serving and who are the people that are committing the crimes? It’s the disenfranchised and it’s often people who have had systemic wrongs done to them. And so why would you obey this like capital L law if you know that something has happened that’s not right with you, that’s not being attended to by any laws or any conversation around policy or whatever? But I appreciated that.

Tommy Orange: Something else that repeats from Sympathizer and The Committed and that I think is a really interesting meta layer that I’ve played within my work too and continues in my next book is this idea of the cultural show. So in the first one, he’s a consultant on the film set, it’s not a cultural show, but there’s elements of representing a culture and he’s sort of critiquing this Vietnam movie in The Sympathizer. And now in The Committed, they sort of bond in him, become a part of this cultural show and then the Fantasia plays kind of a big part of it. Can you talk about the introduction of the cultural show and the layering that you’re doing around like authentic Vietnamese culture versus the gays of the outside world seeing the presentation of culture and all the ways that you’re working that into the book?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. I guess I can see some resonance here with like native American culture and the kinds of ways by which native American culture becomes commodified and just turn into an exhibit or repetitive exhibit. So two kinds of culture shows are happening in The Committed. One is Fantasia which you mentioned. And so part of what happens is that our narrator’s in Paris and a character from the past appears from The Sympathizer. I’m not giving much away, but he had a lover in The Sympathizer, Lana who became a singer. And now Lana becomes a part of this traveling entertainment show called Fantasia. And it’s based on a real thing, Paris By Night. So the Vietnamese in the diaspora who fled as refugees, honestly we are fun loving people. We like to sing dance, smoke, drink, have fun, and we like nightclubs. All right?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: So one of the first things that we did was to create our own song and dance review. And it was called Paris By Night. It’s in about 140 episodes by now, first in videotape, now in DVD, high production values. And so in this book, Fantasia comes to Paris to shoot a live episode and Lana comes along. So there’s an opportunity for a lot of singing and dancing and pop music and all that kind of stuff, and cognac drinking that Vietnamese people love to do. Now, the other culture show is something that I became very familiar with because in the United States on college campuses, wherever there is a Vietnamese student association, the students feel compelled to put on an annual culture show and they’re not alone.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Like the Korean students have one, the Filipino students, the Japanese students, and so on. So there are all these culture shows happening. And in the Vietnamese case, if you go to a Vietnamese American student culture show, and I went to a bunch in college, they’re all the same. And they all involve things like let’s recreate peasant life and the romantic courtship rituals of peasants. Let’s do the fan dance. Let’s stage a scene in the rice fields and everything like that. Let’s wear our traditional Alia, the traditional garb for men and women. And after three or four of these shows, I was kind of sick and tired of them. And in the book, The Sympathizer and his best friend, Bon, volunteered to be a part of the culture show in Paris.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And it’s an opportunity for me to satirize the culture show. And part of the point I’m making is why do we feel obligated to put on this calcified version of our culture and put it on exhibit. Is wearing an Alia part of Vietnamese culture? Is being in a rice field part of Vietnamese culture? Especially when the people were putting on this show, most of them have never stepped foot into a rice field, a rice party. And isn’t Vietnamese culture as much like is… Is wife beating Vietnamese culture? Because I know a lot… I mean, there’s a lot of wife beating that takes place in Vietnamese culture. Is alcoholism a part of Vietnamese culture? Is gambling a part of Vietnamese culture? I grew up with all this stuff happening around me in the Vietnamese refugee community. Is wealthier fraud a part of Vietnamese culture? I think it is. But why do we not celebrate that? We celebrate the fan dance.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And then I think about how Americans don’t have to put on culture shows. There’s no American culture show that American students feel obligated to put on. And that’s because everything is American culture. If you live in the United States, everything is American culture from burgers to B-52 bombers. And the same thing with France. The French don’t need to put on a culture show because they already export their version of French culture. And that’s why we all think about the Eiffel Tower and baguettes and mimes and accordion music when we think about Paris, that’s the French culture show. So even for us the so-called minorities to put on a culture show, we do it to affirm ourselves and to preserve our culture. And that’s kind of, I guess, it’s important, but it’s also kind of a sign of weakness and why do we need to preserve our culture and just keep it in a bottle somewhere. So it’s a very double edged kind of phenomenon. And so that’s part of what’s being satirized in The Committed.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. And I think writing books where you’re getting into your own culture and I think you obviously do it in a very knowing way and you lean into this ability to be able to deconstruct all of it. So you’re not at risk of putting on the show, but even being in the industry of the literary world and in publication, I feel always wary of like, well, I’m not trying to like do this for the white gays or I’m not trying to present my culture. And I’m sure you get lots of questions that try to ask you to sort of delve into the showiness of it or to show off your life where like people of color and women, for the most part, when they get asked questions, it’s like, well, what part of this is your life?

Tommy Orange: And you’re not really asked as much about craft and your imagination. You’re like, well, what parts of all these characters are your life? Which brings me to asking you a question about your life. No, I’m just kidding. Which brings me to asking you a question about research. I’m wondering because the breadth of knowledge and the expanse of the vision of the character is incredible. And I know that you have a history in academia, and I know that you are very well read and knowledgeable about a lot, but I’m wondering how much research influences your working. What does that look like? I know you lived in France and you may or may not have a place there. And was that part of your research or did you just want to be there?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, I’m mentally colonized. Okay. I mean, honestly, I’m mentally colonized. Like my parents were born literally in French colonization. My 86 year old father still remembers the French songs he had to learn when he was a kid and he still sings them nostalgically, right? And even though intellectually I’m anticolonial and I think that I’m trying to figure out how to do decolonizing work in various aspects of my life, from the scholarship to the writing, to activism, I’m mentally colonized because I get weak in the knees when I hear French. Okay? I like a baguette as much as anybody else. Right? So I wanted to write The Committed to both to express that, to express this ambivalence about knowing that we’ve been colonized and resisting being colonized all at the same time.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And I think it’s totally possible to be politically anti-colonial and yet still to be sort of be culturally colonized at the same time. And I knew that from an early age because I’d been to France many times long before we met each other there and my wife and I, we spent seven months in Paris on our honeymoon. We were really lucky we could afford to do that. And in fact, this little clue, a little Easter egg in the novel, the only address cited in the novel is where we spent seven months in Paris. And so that was sort of I knew something about France. I knew something about Paris, the geography and all that kind of thing. And I knew something about what the French had done to Indochina by reading history books long before this novel.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: But when I decided to set off to write this novel, I knew that I had to make it at least semi-realistic. So that was the excuse to go to Paris for a couple of summers, including the summer that I saw you there for a couple months in summer. And thankfully, the novel set in 1982 to 1984, but thankfully the geography of Paris hasn’t changed. The fashion has changed, the people have changed a little bit. And so to set myself into that time period of 1982 to 1984, I watched a lot of French movies from that time period, listened to French music from that era from the ’50s up until the ’80s, looked at a lot of photographs and discovered a photograph from 1984 that was so incredible that I had to put it into the book. It’s the only photograph that appears.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And it’s a photograph about the first time that people of color in Paris and the French wouldn’t agree to this term people of color, but the immigrants or their descendants from North Africa and West Africa, the Algerians and the Moroccans and the Senegalese and so on staged a huge March for immigrant rights and against racism. And there was a Vietnamese contingent there and that’s what the photo is. And in the photo, it’s the French of Vietnamese descent, and in the front right, there are some young men wearing masks and that was perfect because in fact, there are masks happening in The Committed. So that kind of research was really fortuitous and then the research of French colonialism looked at all of these photographs of what the French were doing in their colonies in Asia and Africa. And a lot of it was around sex.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: So it was really kind of shocking to see some of these images both the fantasies of the French towards their darker subjects, but then also some of the horrible things that were being recorded as well. And all of that leads to, here’s a selling point for the novel I hope, the big orgy scene that happens at the end of the book. So I mean, the research was actually kind of fun because after my two summers in Paris, I was like, “Oh God, I’m such an American. I still can’t speak French. It’s so embarrassing.” So now I’m enrolled in French classes again. My son is in a French school. I have to learn French or otherwise this kid is going to grow up speaking better French than me and able to keep secrets for me and I can not allow that to happen.

Tommy Orange: Maybe we could segue to one of the questions. I want to start trying to ask some of the audience questions. Speaking of your son, you are referred to more often than not as Allison’s dad, not exactly you because of that time we spent together, how are your kids doing? You have a new one I think that came right before the pandemic, right?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. Simone named after Nina Simone and Simone DuBois and many other famous Simones. Was born I think like three, four months before the pandemic hit. So she’s a baby, who’s known nothing except the inside of this house and the local park. But she seems to be totally… I mean, she doesn’t know anything else. I mean, she seems happy, well adjusted. Ellison thankfully is like his father, he’s an introvert. So he doesn’t mind being home for school. In fact, he doesn’t want to go back to the physical school anymore. And the biggest project of the confinement for us as his parents has been to try to persuade him to not just wear pajamas all day long. So we consider an accomplishment that now he actually puts on some shorts and a t-shirt and he’ll comb his hair and that’s huge. That’s a bigger issue for us with him than the social isolation. But it’s really cool. I don’t know what your experience with Felix is like, but it’s really cool watching them grow and I’m teaching them stuff, I hope, but like I said, with the whole thing about reading children’s literature, I’m learning stuff.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: The whole Dr. Seuss thing came up, right? And unfortunately, that’s I think pretty accurate because it’s like when I was growing up, I had Curious George and Tintin, both of which I love, but they’re problematic. All right? And he’s growing up in sort of this anti-racist moment of children’s literature with writers of color, but also with writers who are conscious of what they’re doing culturally and racially. And there’s some amazing stuff that’s being produced and I’m learning all kinds of new children’s literature through him and that’s a lot of fun.

Tommy Orange: Well, speaking of your book with him, I hope you got a little bit of a book tour with him before the pandemic. Didn’t it come out in 2019?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. This is a kid. By that time he was six, he was going on book tour. I flew with him to Seattle and we went to Elliot Bay, that’s the bookstore in Seattle, right? Or is that port… No, that’s Elliot Bay. And we had an event and I said to him, “Do you know how many writers would kill to have an event at Elliot Bay bookstore and you’re six years old and you get to do this?” So we did a couple of those kinds of events. We were going to be on the main stage at the LA Times Book Festival. And the last time I went to the main stage at the LA Times Book Festival, it was Billy Idol and then the confinement hit and so we had to do it virtually.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: So he’s had kind of a charmed existence and he’s taken it for granted. And I have to say that it’s a good teaching tool because he did get an advance for the book. And on our chalkboard, I have the advance written, I deducted his agent fees because I’m not paying his agent fees for him. Okay? So he had to pay his agent fees. And then every time he buys Legos or buys an Apple TV subscription to Scooby-Doo, we deduct. And he’s almost out of money, so I’m hoping he gets the message and we’ll write a sequel because I’m not paying for him. I’m not paying for him. He better write.

Tommy Orange: Okay. Let me try to get to some of these questions. People are posting in the… Let’s see, we are in a literary renaissance with authors like yourselves, Adam Johnson, and many others. Thank you for mainstreaming the counter narrative. We had an attempted white supremacist insurrection, how does this end? Maybe we can expand this a little bit to our current moment. We had the end of Trump and we have what seems to be a peaceful presidency so far. In my opinion, there’s still problems and probably you feel the same that they’re trying to stop Deb Haaland from getting the Secretary of the Interior Position, which would be really historic. But what do you think about the moment in publishing, especially regarding COVID hitting the industry and what we had before that was definitely writers of color becoming more mainstream and probably more manuscripts being acquired. What do you think about this happening and the way COVID hit the industry, do you think we’ll see more diversity becoming normalized or do you think there’ll be some backlash because they want to make sure and get their money where they need to?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, to address the first part of the question about how does this end after the capital riot or insurrection or whatever you want to call it, I don’t think it ends. I think American history is cyclical because we’re built on a contradiction, this country. Like we have all these high flown ideals that we all know about. And then the country itself is built on slavery and genocide and colonization and occupation and all that kind of stuff. And the profits of that are embedded in the inequities of our current system and so are all the feelings and ideas that justify these things. And so that’s why we could have Obama as one president and then we flip it over and then we have Trump as the next president.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: There’s just two aspects of this contradiction. So the capital riot, obviously quite shocking, upset me, but I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it because we haven’t seen the end of this contradiction that is America. So I mean, literally America unmasked itself at this capital riot, literally unmasked itself. And all those people who were going around being shocked, clutching their pearls and saying, “This is not us. This is not America.” This is America. This has always been America, always been America. We’ve just forgotten about it. We’ve been lynching people throughout our history. We’ve been suppressing votes throughout our history. This is America. And the sooner we understand that, the better of a chance we might have to do something about it. So when it comes to the literary industry, we’ve, I guess, had our moment too of racial reckoning with this awareness that the inequities of American society are present in a very liberal industry, like the book publishing industry.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And I think people in the book industry generally hue to liberal values of inclusion and diversity and all that kind of thing. But nevertheless, the editorial staff of the publishing industry, according to one report, at least is about 85% white. So you can totally have these liberal values and yet have these inequities built into the actual practice of an industry. So it’s not up to us, that is the writers, you and me, to do anything about it. We can draw attention to it, but it has to be the publishing industry itself that makes these decisions. Now the publishing industry because of its values, talks a good game about needing multicultural writers and foregrounding multicultural programs and giving writers like you and me prizes, which I’m not going to turn down, but that’s not the same as systematically addressing socioeconomic inequities that are manifested in the hiring practices and the promotion practices of the industry and who gets the whole power. So I think the publishing industry still has to demonstrate that it’s taken that reckoning to heart over the next few years so we just have to wait and see.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. It’s not something that I’ve heard really voiced about the inherent biases of editors who acquire manuscripts and this sort of subjectiveness of what makes a good manuscript. I mean, the fact that there’s so many books about sort of middle class white people that take place in New York is that’s the direct outcome of them not knowing their inherent biases. Like this is a good book, but it’s so related to the editor who read it because you’re from New York and you’re white middle class and it’s speaking to you so strongly because that… I don’t know what it’s going to take for that kind of reckoning or if it’s even possible, but it seems to be happening across other industries too. And still they just dropped the TV film rights for There There unfortunately. I was really hoping for an all native cast. I was wondering about-

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I want to hear about this. What do you mean who’s they, and what do you mean they dropped the rights?

Tommy Orange: We had sold the rights… A big production company had it. I don’t know why I wouldn’t mention them because they dropped it. HBO had it for two years and then they didn’t end up wanting it in the end. And so the rights were reverted back to me.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: They’re always going to screw us the writers. That’s why I’m never optimistic about TV deals and all that kind of thing because we’re up against a machinery.

Tommy Orange: Speaking of… So with The Sympathizer, I’m sure it’s been option, but is there steps into production yet?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, it’s been double option, so it’s option first by my producer who paid me a small sum of money and then it has been option by a studio who’s paid me a considerably larger sum of money. But there’s money in the bank. So I guess I can walk away with some money in the bank but I would still like to see it get made. And I’ll just tell you a little bit of a story and maybe it’ll resonate with your experience but when I was first trying to get this thing made, I was talking to this Asian American producer whom we were totally on the same page artistically and politically and if I’ve mentioned the things that she’s done, you’ll know exactly what they are. She’s done really great things.

Viet Thanh Nguyen:

And so she went off and she tried to sell it and she came back and she said after several months, this is about in 2016 and she said, “You know…” And if you remember, The Sympathizer is part French and part Vietnamese. So it’s mixed race. She said, “If we want to sell this to Hollywood, they’re telling me we have to get somebody like Keanu Reeves to star in The Sympathizer.” And this was about the same time that NACOs was out. And NACOs was about the same budget as we projected like 40 or 50 million for a season. And there’s nobody famous in NACOs. So why can you do that for NACOs but for the Asians you got to have Keanu Reeves? I think it’s kind of racist. So eventually, I did manage to get a producer to option it and it’s Canadian, which I thought makes total sense, because Americans are going to screw me in Hollywood because Americans have so many hangups about the Vietnam war, they can’t see straight.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: And then we found a director and the director is perfect. Again, if I said his name, then you would know, but I think they’re waiting to do some kind of publicity for this. But this director in one of this movies was nuts and is a total influence on The Sympathizer. So this is perfect. And so now hopefully because money’s been committed and the director has been signed and yesterday or two days ago an A List actor who you would all know his agent reached out and said he’s interested in the white male parts in the book and the director’s genius insight was that he was going to cast one white male actor to play all the white male roles in the book, like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and I thought that’s brilliant. But I think my hopes are really, really low.

Tommy Orange: Yeah. Wow. I mean, though, I think there is probably a lot of parallels between the pool of Vietnamese actors and actresses that are sellable or marketable or knowable so that you can sell it to people that’ll fund the film, same with native actors, the Killers of the Flower Moon is coming out from Scorsese and you have DiCaprio playing, but it’s like the White Savior sort of. It’s still being told is that’s the hero position and it’s not really a native perspective. But well, I hope for The Sympathizer and then The Committed, you may have sold both rights to one because I think sometimes when you sell rights for one, it carries over to the characters for the sequel automatically.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: I think they have the option on the next one.

Tommy Orange: Which brings me to-

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. Go ahead.

Tommy Orange: Which brings me to, I believe you told me at some point that this is all part of a trilogy. Could you speak on that a little bit if we can look forward to another one?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Yeah. I’ve taken a lot of notes while I was writing The Committed towards this third book and it’s definitely the end, definitely the end. And I know that he comes back to the United States and I know that he comes back in the mid to late ’80s to make amends and to seek revenge. And it’s going to be, I hope, crazy. I mean, I know this is the time period when you have star wars, the space weapons program, and you have the Contras and you have the rise and it’s going to be set in Southern California. So you have the rise of little Korea, the rise of little Saigon, you have the flooding of South Central Los Angeles with crack which arguably was a CIA pacification campaign against the African American population. All that stuff is I hope going to be jammed somehow into this final installment of The Sympathizer trilogy and indigenous colonization. The colonization of indigenous people, I’m thinking about how to incorporate that as well into the story of this novel.

Tommy Orange: Great. Can we possibly look forward to… Because I feel the voice is so singular and strong, the novel voice for you and so different than what the refugees is doing just in terms of voice. And I love both for very different reasons. Are you still at work at short stories? Can we expect another collection?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: No, never.

Tommy Orange: Because that one took like a really long time to write, is that right? Was that one was…

Viet Thanh Nguyen: It was a really traumatic experience to write The Refugees, that short story collection, that was like 20 years of my life for a book that most people can read in like a day. And I’m just frightened. I’m frightened. I don’t want to go back into that hell hole of writing short stories. I’m afraid that I’m not any good. Like with novels, I feel like I can explain everything I’m doing. With short stories, it’s so intuitive and I’m afraid of going back into that completely intuitive space where I don’t know why I’m doing what I’m doing and I afraid of just getting sucked into a hole. So no.

Tommy Orange:

Well, it’s one of my favorite short story collections of all time. So I hope you can fight your way through that fear of the hole. Okay. Let me try to get some more questions. Going back to highbrow, lowbrow, what would you both recommend to writers who feel like they have to increasingly compromise their art in order to break into the industry, I.e write what the market wants you to write, especially in the cultural hegemony we live in with COVID/social media seems to have only strengthened I.e has made risk taking so much more risky and commodities increasingly one thing. Long question, thank you. I admire you both.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: No. When I read There There, I didn’t feel like you were selling out or that you were trying to cater to a market. I thought There There was a lot of fun to read number one. And that’s a good thing in my opinion. And that it was doing something innovative and new and yet it was still kind of formally interesting as well. It wasn’t like some kind of feel good cookie cutter kind of story. So I think, from my perspective, it seems like it’s totally possible to try to sell books and yet also adhere to some kind of unique individual vision. I will say for myself that for The Sympathizer, the breakthrough for me was actually to stop thinking about selling books or really to stop thinking about will an editor or an agent or a publisher like this book?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: That’s what I thought when I was writing The Refugees and it was really kind of crippling. And The Sympathizer, the crucial moment was excuse my French was for me to say, fuck it, I’m going to write this book for me. And lo and behold, it turned out that there was an audience for that. And so I have some kind of idealistic conviction that when we write books that are very unique, that we are also creating our own audience. Now the publishing industry doesn’t see it that way because the publishing industry just like every other industry wants a sure bet. So they want to know what the audience already is, but that’s a self defeating situation for those of us who come from communities that are being ignored by the publishing industry or Hollywood or whatever.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: So with The Committed, likewise, my mindset was, well, I would love for it to sell books. But really I’m writing it for myself which would allow me to do whatever it is that I wanted to do. But part of what I wanted do was to incorporate genre fiction and to make it entertaining because that’s what I like. So did you feel that way when you were writing There There? Were you worried about an audience or was that just not a matter of concern for you?

Tommy Orange: It wasn’t. I mean, when I first started writing, I wasn’t even thinking… I was just wanting to get to the end of a book and finish something that I was happy with. By the time I got to an MFA program, I was about halfway through writing it. So the vision was already there just for me to want to finish a book, but you can’t help if you’re in an MFA program, you are interfacing with the idea of publication and you’re meeting with teachers who are published and that’s part of how they can teach in an MFA program. But even at that point, the goal leaving the program was to get a teaching job by somehow magically publishing a book somewhere. And so even then it was an audience, it was like, I want a teaching job because I need to work because I was very broke at that time.

Tommy Orange: So the audience thing, I can’t help but speak to it now. And like you said, it created an audience. There are now fans of people who like There There and so I wouldn’t say that those people are in the writing room with me. I have my own demon, a room full of demons that keep me plenty of company and try to sabotage me. But luckily, the voice of like who’s going to read this still isn’t there with me. And it wasn’t there while writing There There. Do you feel like the writing process and the voices at the page changed from like before Pulitzer Prize and the bigness of what you’ve become? Have you found that it’s changed at the page who is in the room with you?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: No. I mean, honestly I think because I already made that psychological decision with The Sympathizer and then The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize and sold a bunch of books. And so part of my mindset after that was how much do I really need? Do I really need another prize? Do I need to sell more books? Isn’t that enough what I already got? And that’s very liberating because really it’s enough. So if I’ve already had enough, then I can still do whatever I want in The Committed. And so it remains a book written for me. I hope people come along with it. I think if you’re a part of the audience of The Sympathizer, I’m betting that it’s more than likely you’ll like The Committed too. That was always my hope. But I mean, I do want to always make sure that there’s authenticity to the artistic experience is because you’re being true to yourself and what you believe in.

Tommy Orange: Well, I think anybody who loved The Sympathizer or The Committed, you pulled off this thing where it’s a standalone and it’s the revisiting of certain elements, but its own thing and it’s fantastic. I loved it. It is very haunted. There’s a course of ghosts in it. And from a craft perspective as just sort of nerding out from the writing decisions, I just love the decisions you made and I love to watch you do them in the book. So congratulations on finishing it and for it being out in the world. I’m sorry that it has to be like this. And I actually have the Japanese whiskey that you sent me. It’s still in the box because I’m currently just on a little break from drinking and I’ll send you a picture of when I open it, probably April 1st, because my deadline is March 31st for my next draft. And I think the day after I make that deadline, I’ll make sure to take a picture or send a little video of a toast to you.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, congratulations on finishing this draft. I mean, I looked at some of the comments and people are excited about a sequel to There There and so am I. And yeah, do the unboxing video. Kids apparently like to unbox toys, adults can unbox liquor, so go ahead and do that and I will have another drink with you virtually. Thanks, Tom.

Tommy Orange: Thank you.

Jessica Williams-Sullivan: Thank you both for being here tonight and for everyone who joined us virtually. You can support these amazing authors’ AIP&P by using the link in the chat to purchase The Committed, which is amazing. If you haven’t read it, read it tonight, tomorrow, ever and ever and There There as well, and the sequel, which I will be anxiously waiting along with everyone else. And be sure to check out our website for the most current updated event listings. We hope to see you all there and thank you for joining us tonight. Stay all right everyone and we will see you next time. Thank you.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Bye everyone. Thank you.

Tommy Orange: Thank you, Viet. Thank you, Jessica.

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Thanks Jessica.


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