Pen Pals – Viet Thanh Nguyen
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author
Growing up as a Vietnamese refugee in the United States, Viet Thanh Nguyen noticed that all the movies and books about the Vietnam War focused on Americans, while the Vietnamese experience was silenced in the retelling of history. To give voice to this experience, Nguyen wrote his debut novel, The Sympathizer, which globally reimagined what we thought we knew about the conflict. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize, a Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award.
He continues the story in his 2021 sequel, The Committed, which follows the original’s communist double agent – a “ man of two minds” – as he arrives as a refugee in France and turns his hand to capitalism. In the new book, the agent’s interactions with those living on the fringes of French society illuminates his twin struggles to survive and get ahead of the dark legacy of history.
In 2017, Nguyen received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant for his work, which the foundation stated “not only offers insight into the experiences of refugees past and present, but also poses profound questions” about war, violence, and who controls the narrative of history. In his powerful and honest voice, the author brings the reader into the lives of strangers half a world away, while simultaneously shedding new light on the places we call home.