March – Viet Thanh Nguyen

Book Club Selection (Meeting on April 4, 2024) – The Sympathizer  (2015)

Books are available at the circulation desk. eBooks and audiobooks available on Libby!


Viet was born in Ban Mê Thuột, Viet Nam (now spelled Buôn Mê Thuột after 1975, a year which brought enormous changes to many things, including the Vietnamese language). He came to the United States as a refugee in 1975 with his family and was initially settled in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, one of four such camps for Vietnamese refugees. From there, he moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he lived until 1978. Seeking better economic opportunities, his parents moved to San Jose, California, and opened one of the first Vietnamese grocery stores in the city. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, San Jose had not yet been transformed by the Silicon Valley economy, and was in many ways a rough place to live, at least in the downtown area where Viet’s parents worked. Viet attended St. Patrick School and Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. After high school, he briefly attended UC Riverside and UCLA before settling on UC Berkeley, where he graduated with degrees in English and ethnic studies. He stayed at Berkeley for a Ph.D. in English, moved to Los Angeles for a teaching position at the University of Southern California, and has been there ever since.

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s major works include:

A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial • Grove/Atlantic, 2023.
The Committed (novel) • Grove/Atlantic, 2021
The Refugees (short fiction) • Grove/Atlantic, 2017
Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (cultural criticism) • Harvard University Press, 2016
The Sympathizer (novel) • Grove Press, 2015
Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

He has also edited and contributed to collections of fiction and essays, written books for children, and been featured in documentaries, and periodicals.

Influences in Writing (click on the links to check out works by, and about, these authors!)

Viet Thanh Nguyen on writing The Sympathizer:

“My landmark when I was writing The Sympathizer and The Committed was not to think about whatever The New York Times Book Review is rewarding, but to think about the landmarks of American literature and world literature that I respond to … Moby Dick, or Absalom, Absalom!, or Beloved, these are books that have really exceptional kinds of narrators or protagonists at their center. “

On his “models” for writing the stories in The Refugees:

You know, my models for writing the stories as a whole, as a collection, were books like Dubliners and Lost in the City, by Edward P. Jones, books that I felt rose to a greater sum than the parts.

Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN) (click on the link to discover new work by Vietnamese artists championed by the DVAN)

The Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN) is an organization founded by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Professor Isabelle Thuy Pelaud. It’s misson is to “uplift and foster diasporic Vietnamese and Southeast Asian literary voices. DVAN promotes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry to empower artists in the diaspora and inspire understanding and dialogue within our community, and with others.”

Click here to download a copy of the reader’s guide!