Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Pulitzer-winning author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, makes a powerful return to fiction with the February 7th, 2017 publication of his short story collection, The Refugees. The book, comprised of eight unconnected short stories, explores the experiences of those who fled Vietnam following the collapse of the Southern Vietnamese government in 1975. Nguyen, himself a “boat person,” brings both first-hand knowledge and impressive literary skill to bear in this collection.

His stories of immigration, eerily relevant in this new year, focus on the refugee experience in all but one of the vignettes; the exception being the story of an American family whose daughter flees to Vietnam. The contents of each chapter vary effortlessly through space, time, and gender: from poignant ghost story, to a wife coming to grips with her long-time spouse’s dementia, to the struggles of youth with the obligations of filial piety. I have always believed that a truly talented author could make me believe anything of anyone, but I am also aware that a writer who draws on personal experience can lend a special sort of authenticity to their fiction. The Refugees has this in spades, and I would heartily recommend it to lovers of short stories and character-driven fiction.

Jennifer Wilson

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