I was taken aback by this near-perfect story collection. The opening piece, “Black-Eyed Women,” features a narrator haunted by the spirit of her dead brother who was killed as they escaped to America, and that sets the tone for the rest of the book — these are ghostly tales with characters who perceive the past more vividly than the present. And yet their stories, their journeys through time and place, deserve to be told. The Refugees is a quiet yet assured collection that gives dignity to a displaced population. Recommended By Renee P., Powells.com
My favorite stories in The Refugees are "Black-Eyed Women" and "The Americans," but every story offers some tantalizing description or surprising idea to mull over. Nguyen has written a book that is both a pleasure to read and an accounting of refugee experiences that everyone should become familiar with. Recommended By Ashleigh B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Refugees is a collection of stories imbued with Nguyen’s extraordinary gift for writing, exploring questions of home, family, immigration, and the American experience.
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 First Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in 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 of 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.
"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’s] stories, excellent from start to finish, transcend ethnic boundaries to speak to human universals." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"For Nguyen groupies desperate for future titles (including a Sympathizer sequel), [The] Refugees is a highly gratifying interlude. For short fiction fans of other extraordinary, between-culture collections such as Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, Nguyen won’t disappoint." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"A collection of fluidly modulated yet bracing stories about Vietnamese refugees in the U.S., powerful tales of rupture and loss that detonate successive shock waves.... Each intimate, supple, and heartrending story is unique in its particulars even as all are works of piercing clarity, poignant emotional nuance, and searing insights into the trauma of war and the long chill of exile, the assault on identity and the resilience of the self, and the fragility and preciousness of memories." Booklist (Starred Review)
"The nine stories that make up this brief volume are a delight.... The short story is a beautiful affirmation of the supreme importance of art in our daily lives. And Viet Thanh Nguyen drives that point home brilliantly." Mekong Review
About the Author
Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards. He is also the author of the nonfiction books Nothing Ever Dies and Race and Resistance. The Aerol Arnold Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, he lives in Los Angeles.