Chapter 1 – Introduction Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American novelist. Nguyen is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English, Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. The Sympathizer, debut novel of Nguyen ,won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction among other accolades such as Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, Edgar Award for Best First Novel from an American Author from the Mystery Writers of America and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Fiction from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.
Nguyen is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Nguyen was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2017.Nguyen was born in Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam in 1971, the son of immigrants from North Vietnam who moved south in 1954. After the fall of Saigon, in 1975, his family fled to the United States. Nguyen’s family first settled in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, which was one of four American camps that accommodated refugees from Vietnam.
Nguyen’s family then moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania until 1978. His family later moved to San Jose, California, where they opened up a Vietnamese grocery store, one of the first of its kind in the area. While growing up in San Jose, Nguyen attended St. Patrick School, a Catholic elementary school, and went on to Bellarmine College Preparatory. Nguyen then briefly attended the University of California Riverside and UCLA before finally deciding to finish his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, from where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in May 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in English and Ethnic Studies. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in English from Berkeley in May 1997. That year, he moved to Los Angeles for a teaching position as an assistant professor at the California in both the English Department, and in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department. In 2003, he became an associate professor in the two departments. In addition to teaching and writing, Nguyen also serves as cultural critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times and is an editor of diacritics, a blog for the Diaspora Vietnamese Artists Network. Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympathizer was published in 2015 by the Grove Press/Atlantic. The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Sympathizer further won the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, and the Literature in Fiction from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. The book additionally won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from an American Author from the Mystery Writers of America, and was a finalist in the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. The novel has also won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The New York Times included The Sympathizer among the Book Review’s “Editors’ Choice” selection of new books when the book debuted, and in its list of “Notable Books of 2015”. The novel also made it onto numerous other “Books of the Year” lists, including those of The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Slate.com, Amazon.comand The Washington Post. Short storiesNguyen’s short fiction has been published in Best New American Voices 2007 (“A Correct Life: M”™t Cu”™c S”‘ng “©ng єn”), Manoa (“Better Homes and Gardens”), Narrative Magazine (“Someone Else Besides You”, “Arthur Arellano” and “Fatherland”, which was a prize winner in the 2011 Winter Fiction Contest), TriQuarterly (“The War Years” – Issue 135/136), The Good Men Project (“Look At Me”) the Chicago Tribune (“The Americans”, also a 2010 Nelson Algren Short Story Awards finalist), and Gulf Coast, where his story won the 2007 Fiction Prize.Nguyen is one of the contributing authors to “A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross-Cultural Collision and Connection published by OV Books, Other Voices, Inc. in May 2008.Nguyen released a book of short stories, published by Grove Press in February 2017 entitled The Refugees.Non-fiction[Nguyen has also released a non-fiction book published by the Harvard University Press in March 2016 entitled Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War described on his website as “the critical bookend to a creative project whose fictional bookend was The Sympathizer”. According to Nguyen’s website, the book Nothing Ever Dies “examines how the so-called Vietnam War has been remembered by many countries and people, from the US to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and South Korea.” Kirkus Reviews has also called the book “a powerful reflection on how we choose to remember and forget.” The book is a National Book Award finalist.In 2002, Nguyen published a treatise entitled Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press). Nguyen has also co-edited a treatise entitled Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (University of Hawaii Press, 2014) along with Janet Hoskins. Nguyen’s non-fiction articles and essays have also appeared in numerous journals and books, including PMLA, American Literary History, Western American Literature, positions: east asia cultures critique, The New Centennial Review, Postmodern Culture, The Japanese Journal of American Studies, and Asian American Studies After Critical Mass.