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The Refugees
Cover of The Refugees
The Refugees
From the author of The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Refugees is the second piece of fiction from a powerful voice in American letters, praised as "beautiful and heartrending" (Joyce Carol Oates, New Yorker), "terrific" (Chicago Tribune), and "an important and incisive book" (Washington Post)

Published in hardcover to astounding acclaim, The Refugees is the remarkable debut collection of short stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Sympathizer. In these powerful stories, written over a period of twenty years and set in both Vietnam and America, Nguyen paints a vivid portrait of the experiences of people leading lives between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth.

With the same incisiveness as in The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to the hopes and expectations of people making life-changing decisions to leave one country for another, and the rifts in identity, loyalties, romantic relationships, and family that accompany relocation. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of migration.

The second work of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

From the author of The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Refugees is the second piece of fiction from a powerful voice in American letters, praised as "beautiful and heartrending" (Joyce Carol Oates, New Yorker), "terrific" (Chicago Tribune), and "an important and incisive book" (Washington Post)

Published in hardcover to astounding acclaim, The Refugees is the remarkable debut collection of short stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Sympathizer. In these powerful stories, written over a period of twenty years and set in both Vietnam and America, Nguyen paints a vivid portrait of the experiences of people leading lives between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth.

With the same incisiveness as in The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to the hopes and expectations of people making life-changing decisions to leave one country for another, and the rifts in identity, loyalties, romantic relationships, and family that accompany relocation. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of migration.

The second work of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 19, 2016
    Each searing tale in Nguyen’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-winning The Sympathizer is a pressure cooker of unease, simmering with unresolved issues of memory and identity for the Vietnamese whose lives were disrupted by the “American War.” In “Black-Eyed Woman,” a writer is visited by the ghost of her teenage brother, who was murdered trying to save her from Thai pirates while fleeing the Vietcong. “War Years” is about a family of Vietnamese grocers in San Jose, Calif., challenged by another refugee to donate money to rebels still fighting the Communists back home. When an armed intruder invades the family’s home, the piercing irony is that their youngest son thinks it’s safe to open the door because the man is white. In “The Transplant,” Arthur Arellano is the recipient of a new liver from Men Vu, a Vietnamese man killed in a hit-and-run, whose son befriends him, then makes him complicit in his shady business selling fake designer goods. The most disturbing story is “Fatherland,” in which a man names his second set of children in Vietnam after his first set, who have fled to America with his first wife. When the American Phuong (now Vivien) visits her sister Phuong in Vietnam, Vivien reveals she is not the doctor her mother boasted she was. It is clear that author Nguyen believes the Vietnamese Phuong, more self-aware and resolute, is better off than her American doppelganger. Nguyen is not here to sympathize—“always resent, never relent,” as the anti-Communist exiles proclaimed in The Sympathizer—but to challenge the experience of white America as the invisible norm. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2016
    A collection of stories, most set amid the Vietnamese exile communities of California, by the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer (2015)."We had passed our youth in a haunted country," declares the narrator of the opening story, a ghostwriter who quite literally finds himself writing about ghosts. One in particular is the ghost of his brother, lost somewhere in the chaos of the Vietnam War, who has somehow managed to swim across the ocean to find his family and is now dripping in their hallway. He is not the only ghost: there are other civilians, the eviscerated Korean lieutenant blown apart in a treetop, the unfortunate black GI, "the exposed half-moon of his brain glistening above the water," and the Japanese private from another war--so many ghosts, so much horror. Some of the living are not much better off. There is, for example, the Madame Thieu-like operator who works the merchants of a refugee shopping district, demanding what amounts to protection money and darkly hinting that they might be accused of being Communists if they do not pay up; she nurses a terrible grief, but that does not make her any less criminal. And then there is the 30-something divorce, torn between cultures, who cannot seem to find himself in the midst of all the expectations others hold for him but is still enraged when others disappoint him in turn. Nguyen's slice-of-life approach is precise without being clinical, archly humorous without being condescending, and full of understanding; many of the stories might have been written by a modern Flaubert, if that master had spent time in San Jose or Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen is the foremost literary interpreter of the Vietnamese experience in America, to be sure. But his stories, excellent from start to finish, transcend ethnic boundaries to speak to human universals.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2016
    Nguyen's The Sympathizer won six prizes (including the Pulitzer) and was a finalist for four, which must be some sort of record. In this second work of fiction, a story collection whose earliest entry dates from 1997, the characters include a young Vietnamese refugee adjusting to living with two gay men in San Francisco and a woman who's come to Ho Chi Minh City from America, leaving her younger half-sister dismayed at what she herself can never have or do.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Maxine Hong Kingston “A magnificent feat of storytelling. The Sympathizer is a novel of literary, historical, and political importance."
  • Ron Charles, Washington Post “Extraordinary . . . Surely a new classic of war fiction."
  • John Warner, Chicago Tribune “So skillfully and brilliantly executed that I cannot believe this is a first novel."
  • Tricia Springstubb, Cleveland Plain Dealer “Welcome a unique new voice to the literary chorus . . . dazzles on all fronts."
  • Wall Street Journal “Intelligent, relentlessly paced and savagely funny."
  • Nancy Pearl “A very special, important, brilliant novel . . . I don't say brilliant about a lot of books, but this is a brilliant book . . . A fabulous book . . . that everyone should read."
  • Akhil Sharma, Guardian “Tremendously funny . . . reminded me of how big books can be."
  • Laura Miller, Slate “[A] marvelously worldly debut novel, redolent of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh."
  • James Grainger, Toronto Star “Nguyen does nothing less than turn the familiar Western narratives of the Vietnam War on their heads . . . that rare novel that will make you see the world just a bit differently."
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The Refugees
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Viet Thanh Nguyen
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