Viet Thanh Nguyen
American author of fiction
Viet Thanh Nguyen (born March 13, 1971) is a Vietnamese-American novelist and professor.
- I follow in this tradition because I believe literature matters, and in this book I insist that Asian American literature literally embodies the contradictions, conﬂicts, and potential future options of Asian American culture
- As quoted in “Race & Resistance Literature & Politics In Asian America" (2002) p.3
- Fiction and nonfiction accomplish very different things, but they can overlap. I wanted my fiction to seem nonfictional, and my nonfiction to seem fictional. At the same time, in fiction I could say things I couldn’t get away with in nonfiction without footnotes. And in nonfiction, I could make things explicit that I couldn’t say in fiction because of the viewpoint of my protagonist.
- On the congruent nature of fiction and nonfiction in “Viet Thanh Nguyen: From both sides” in The Writer (2017 Jan 17)
- Implicitly, the novel insists that a true war story has to take into account not just combat and soldiers, but civilians, the home front, and the military-industrial complex. For me, war is more than guns and shooting. That’s the spectacle that distracts us from how pervasive war is throughout a society and how it makes all of us complicit through things like paying taxes and watching horrifying images on TV without doing anything to stop them from happening…
- On his work The Sympathizer in “Viet Thanh Nguyen: From both sides” in The Writer (2017 Jan 17)
- It's taken me a long time to understand how deeply traumatic that was, that that experience remains an invisible brand stamped between my shoulder blades. And in many ways, I've been - I spent a lifetime trying to make sense of what that trauma has meant to me.
- On fleeing from Saigon as a toddler in “Author Viet Thanh Nguyen Discusses 'The Sympathizer' And His Escape From Vietnam” in NPR (2016 May 17)
- As writers, of course we’re interested in human beings, human stories, human trauma, and all that is very compelling for readers. But when we write these powerful stories about individual people, we have the illusion that we’ve made a difference. And of course we have—people read the books, they’re touched emotionally by these kinds of stories, and that’s great. But to the extent that the stories that we’re telling are about people who are weaker, in some way—they come from a small country, or a forcibly removed population, they’re underrepresented collectively—individual stories don’t change the conditions that produce those refugees in the first place…
- On writers overestimating the difference that their writings make in “An interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen” in Asymptote Magazine
Quotes about edit
- In his book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, Viet Thanh Nguyen writes that immigrant communities like San Jose or Little Saigon in Orange County are examples of purposeful forgetting through the promise of capitalism: "The more wealth minorities amass, the more property they buy, the more clout they accumulate, and the more visible they become, the more other Americans will positively recognize and remember them. Belonging would substitute for longing; membership would make up for disremembering." One literal example of this lies in the very existence of San Francisco's Chinatown. (p 196)
- Stephanie Foo What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma (2022)