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The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees (2017)

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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4342736,089 (4.04)51
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    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (pbirch01)
    pbirch01: Both are collections of short stories largely focused on the immigrant experience for immigrants​ from a specific country.

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“In a country where possessions counted for everything, we had no belongings except our stories.”

“Stories are just things we fabricate, nothing more. We search for them in a world besides our own, then leave them here to be found, garments shed by ghosts.”

“I came to understand that in the United States, land of the fabled dream, it is un-American to be a refugee.”

This is an excellent story collection, that deals with the Vietnamese refugee experience, loosely based on the author's own life. It also focuses on parent-child relationships. I read and enjoyed his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer and I am glad to see, he is equally adept at short fiction. ( )
  msf59 | Mar 5, 2019 |
This was the third library book this year...

I have never read any of Nguyen's work before, and to be honest I got a little nervous of the 'Pulitzer Prize winning author' tag on the front. Don't get me wrong - it's not that I am intimidated by such tags, but sometimes these books or authors can be a little up pretentious! Nguyen's collection of short stories did not come across as this. I choose to see this book as more of a snapshot of the characters lives, a fly on the wall for a moment in time in their lives. It was interesting to see how the Vietnamese immigrants into the US after the war integrated into society, and how they perceived the society around them. It was interesting too to see how those who arrived as small children viewed their homeland and the attitudes of their elders. His writing style was gentle and you were brought into these snapshots at opportune moments and you instantly feel that you know the characters after only a page or two (important when you are with them for such a fleeting moment).

Has it made me want to read Nguyen's prize winning book? Perhaps not, but I wouldn't not read it if it landed in my lap either. ( )
  peelap | Feb 3, 2019 |
Something about it was too predictable and too smooth, felt like I have read it before. ( )
  flydodofly | Dec 5, 2018 |
I came into this collection expecting to read some moving stories of refugees; the reasons why a person might leave their country and the impact of those memories as they forge a new life. This collection does contain those stories and I did find them exceedingly moving with several turns of phrase and images staying with me on completion of the book.

However Nguyen has created something significantly more layered than my initial expectations. The relationships he has created between his characters are deep and complex and effectively present not only a different lens to view the challenges facing his characters as they create a new sense of identify which reflects both Vietnamese and American experiences. The distance and tension between generations is also a reoccurring theme. In “the Other Man” a newly arrived refugee , grappling with a cavalcade of new experiences in 1970s San Francisco struggles to write to his father, in “Someone else besides you” the narrator struggles to build a relationship with his newly widowed father.

Whilst not my favourite stories I particularly valued the inclusion of “The Americans” and “Fatherland”. In the former we hear about the story of a young American woman who is teaching English in Vietnam, who struggles to explain to her father her connection to the country and her recognition of his involvement there during the war. In the latter a Vietnamese family are visited by the patriarch’s daughter from his first marriage who has grown up in the States. Both offer a different perspective of being a stranger in another country and I think add an extra depth to the collection.

My absolute favourite however was “I’d love you to want me” which is a heartbreaking story of a woman whose faith in her marriage is rocked as her husband’s dementia worsens and he starts to refer to her by another woman’s name.

I will certainly be looking for more of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s work in the future. ( )
  itchyfeetreader | May 3, 2018 |
“For all refugees, everywhere.” – Dedication in The Refugees

Holy moly! What an incredible, emotional and remarkable book! I am honestly having a hard time coming up with the right words for this review – I feel it deserves so much more than my unsophisticated writing skills. Nguyen is an eloquent, perceptive, brilliant writer and storyteller. The eight stories featured in The Refugees are powerful, compassionate, and moving. Every day, hundreds of individuals are displaced and must flee their homes and countries. Many refugees fear for their lives and must leave without notice, leaving everything they love behind. The Refugees deals with their immigrant experiences, and the risks they endure for a chance of a better future and life. Nguyen brilliantly brings his characters’ triumphs and sorrows to life. One particular story, “The Warriors” is about Nguyen’s own family’s experience, “…the story “Warriors” about the child of refugee shopkeepers and what happens to that family, that is drawn very much from my life and the lives of my parents. And it was a very difficult story to write because I think my parents’ lives are worthy of writing about. I don’t think my life is particularly worthy of writing about.” With the current political climate in the United States, there is an urgent need for books such as The Refugees to be written and read by all. Get yourself a copy of this book from the bookstore or borrow it from the library or a friend – just make sure you read it!

For more reviews, visit: http://debbiesbooknook.com/book-reviews/ ( )
  debbiesbooknook | Apr 27, 2018 |
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I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they're outside of time, are the only ones with time.

Roberto Bolano, 'Antwerp'
It is not your memories which haunt you.
It is not what you have written down.
It is what you have forgotten, what you must forget.
What you must go on forgetting all your life.

James Fenton, 'A German Requiem'
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Fame would strike someone, usually the kind that healthy-minded people would not wish upon themselves, such as being kidnapped and kept prisoner for years, suffering humiliation in a sex scandal, or surviving something typically fatal.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802126391, Hardcover)

Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer was one of the most widely and highly praised novels of 2015, the winner not only of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but also the Center for Fiction Debut Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the California Book Award for First Fiction. Nguyen's next fiction book, The Refugees, is a collection of perfectly formed stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.

With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. 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 immigration. The second piece 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 08 Aug 2016 16:07:25 -0400)

A collection of stories, written over a twenty-year period, examines the Vietnamese experience in America as well as questions of home, family, and identity.

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