And so I think there are all these layers of insulation that I have that other people, particularly women and women of color, may not. For example, the anxiety that because there are so few stories about us, we have to write our stories to make our own community look good, whatever that community is. But social movements do.”. For this book, I drew fast and didn’t really look at anything to copy; I just drew from my imagination. You said something beautiful about memory. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced , a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the … Available to order! So the work of changing hearts and minds is oftentimes not just at the level a book, but also at the level of personal interaction and going out there and having these kinds of conversations, trying to meet people where they’re coming from. Main The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. You have to endure rejection, obscurity, mockery, miscomprehension, apathy, that no one cares that you want to be a writer. Hien Bui-Stafford: Ellison definitely influenced my style. TM: That brings me to my next question. The spy novel was the genre that was a perfect fit for all of these concerns. Social media allows people to have much more direct confrontations; people will send me messages on Twitter, or Facebook, or through my personal website. The community celebration offers music, dance, art, speaker series,… (read more), Viet Thanh Nguyen He is aware of the underrepresentation of minority groups in literature, but he also understands that great fiction is much more than making one’s community look good. University of Southern California The displaced : refugee writers on refugee lives / edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Record Details Catalog Search. He talked about a prevailing belief back in his college years at Berkeley. And in Vietnam, the case was similar. Department of English In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Unfortunately, you know, in my life now, I have to read a lot of books that I would not necessarily pick up except that I’m reading books because I’m doing favors for other people and writing blurbs and things like that. VTN: I was worried about those kinds of things. We cannot completely separate them all the time. TM: Who are some of the other writers you most admire, and what else do you feel you have learned from them? Students wrote stories often paired with illustrations by professional, local artists, and the stories were often wild and absurd. They were very inspiring for me. I don’t agree with any of these classifications, but the spy novel would allow me to bridge all these things. No one ever became a writer by writing 100 hours. These elements include, most critically, the fact that many refugees that come to the United States have come because of something the United States has done in their country of origin. But after the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, all of a sudden, all these Vietnamese-Americans that never read the book and might never read the book were suddenly proud of me. If I look at the way that American literature has dealt with the Vietnam War, it’s bifurcated. So the existence of Vietnamese refugee writers talking about Vietnamese refugees, acknowledging the history of the war in Vietnam, means that the Americans who read these books or anybody who reads these books has to at least acknowledge this war took place. Currently you have JavaScript disabled. Their stories surprised and delighted me, they brought me joy. And in the context of the novel, it felt much more natural. How did you come up with this premise? VTN: No, that’s a completely different skill set for journalists. So typically their story is only available in Vietnamese. “People say literature saves the world,” he said. Displaced | Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue … When I read Chicken of the Sea, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen and his now six-year-old son, Ellison Nguyen, and illustrated by Thi Bui and her now teenage son, Hien Bui-Stafford, I remembered the years I worked with students at the literary nonprofit 826 Valencia and 826LA. VTN: I think that immigrant and refugee narratives overlap. TM: I don’t want to get writers to talk about their ongoing projects. When writing The Sympathizer, I wanted to write a novel that was a so-called minority novel and that was unapologetic about being a person of color in the United States, but also a novel that could contend with both the Vietnam War canon and American literature as a whole. And then I knew many Americans would reject the novel because the novel was a very strong critique of American culture. I thought. Posted on April 13, 2018    Thi Bui: Viet and I had just presented The Displaced at BookExpo in New York, where Hien met Viet for the first time, and then we flew back to San Francisco, Hien went home with his dad, and I went straight to Djerassi. Click here to register for a discussion of the book The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives - Friday, December 18 at 12:00pm ET; For those interested in starting their own book or film club, we encourage you to use the HIAS Book and Film List to identify your selections. But I also knew that a lot of Vietnamese-Americans were not reading the book, because they didn’t read books or because they heard it was from the perspective of a communist spy, and they just refused to engage. Each story is a unique perspective. We’ll have to wait and see how successful I am. But as you were saying, immigrant narratives generally have a trajectory of moving from one country to the other country. And the page where the Dog King’s heart grows is a homage to the 1966 animated movie of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The facial expressions and body language of the chickens lend to a comical and playful tone. Today the world faces an enormous refugee … Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue … It has its founding myths, but its citizens all have their own tragedies, victories and pain—and each has a story to tell.”, “The book is being published at a time when discourse around refugees has shifted distressingly in the Trump era, with new caps on refugee settlement being instituted and immigration bans remaining clear policy positions.”, “In a decade characterized by massive global displacement that seems likely to grow worse, this collection is both a reminder of the lives altered or destroyed by geopolitical happenings, and a gesture of aid.”, Your email address will not be published. And the immigrant narrative implies settling down in the new country. Curious George and Tintin also never changed or aged. TM: To follow up on that: In his book The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. The worst I heard is “Go back to where you came from,” which is bad, but not that bad compared to what people may actually have said. Did you do anything to avoid being misunderstood or misinterpreted? I’m exaggerating a little bit. About the Author. “…. Some writers would say you have to write every day. These essays reveal moments of uncertainty, resilience in the face of trauma, and a reimagining of identity, forming a compelling look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge. The Displaced is also a commitment: ABRAMS will donate 10 percent of the cover price of this book, a minimum of $25,000 annually, to the International Rescue Committee, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict. Leave a comment →. But in one of your previous interviews, you mentioned that you are working on a sequel to The Sympathizer. And the title comes from Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I don’t ask. So they have to listen. So I think that’s how the book is different, by deploying the refugee perspective. And we have to recognize that if we have a message that is not just an aesthetic message but also a political message, oftentimes we have to do different things to get that message out there, which is why I write op-eds. Even for readers seeking to help, the sheer scale of the problem renders the experience of refugees hard to comprehend. Hien gave me guidance on the Dog Knights’ clothing and armor. This panel, a part of BookCon, was moderated … Praise For…. Your personal memory of displacement cultivates sympathy and empathy in you; remembering the best of humanity allows us to form an ideal that we can hope and work for. And I have to acknowledge their presence. I mean, certainly, some Vietnamese-Americans sought out the book, and I got some very good feedback from them. It’s no doubt that African-American literature has been very influential on me. The colors are bold and bright; they are loud. He will be presenting on his academic work or, at the literary events, reading from and talking about his most recent books: the novel The Sympathizer (2015), the cultural history Nothing Ever Dies (2016), the short story collection The Refugees (2017), and the children’s book Chicken of the… (read more), Viet Thanh Nguyen joins the Pulitzer Prize board as its first Vietnamese-American member. So, their model of aesthetic and political commitment was very important for my own work. But also, at the same time, I want to make the claim that just because I’m still writing about Vietnamese refugees and the consequences of the war, it doesn’t mean that it’s “only” about these things. Hien had had enough of the crowds of tourists visiting ancient ruins in the heat, so we found an outdoor cafe with shade across from the National Gallery of Modern Art. EN: I’m not selling anymore comics. Because I’m not a natural short story writer and I don’t have very good understanding of the short story form, it took a very long time to write that book. That may not be much of an issue in Iowa but it is here in California. So when The Sympathizer came out and got uniformly great reviews, it made, I think, very little difference in the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American community, because like most communities, they don’t read, not on the average, right? Putting all of these elements into his character made these theoretical ideas very organic as the plot unfolded. Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with … Can War Foster Cooperation? Search the Catalog Advanced Search Browse the Catalog But again, that doesn’t happen that often. I was also influenced by the playfulness of little kids. Viet Thanh Nguyen: Well, I had to write a novel. And we’re allowed by dominant culture to own that little piece of territory with the expectation that we won’t break out. TM: In your opinion, what is the difference between writing a novel and writing a short story? You said that if the story had begun in the States and ended in the States, it would have been all about the life and death of the American dream. I don’t have a problem with that. And in order to make that seemed organic and not simply something that I was forcing onto the book, I made him a mixed race—half Vietnamese and half French—and someone who was both infatuated with capitalism but also a devoted communist. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. So if you cannot write a lot, if you cannot endure, if you cannot sacrifice, then you should probably choose another passion. The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives was edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen and includes 19 essays from refugee writers. He views the customary writing adage “Show. Du Bois said that this American world yields “no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.” He ever feels his “twoness”: “an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts,” “two warring ideals in one dark body.” Also, the opening of The Sympathizer pays tribute to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue … The soaring numbers of immigrants and refugees in the world truly show what kind of a global humanitarian crisis we are in. But sometimes we exchange a few emails or communications, and we actually move forward a little bit in terms of understanding each other a little bit more. Why did you choose these colors for Chicken of the Sea? VTN:  An advance is the money you got for your book. The Sympathizer is written from the perspective of a communist spy. Viet Nguyen, called “one of our great chroniclers of displacement” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker), brings together writers originally from Mexico, Bosnia, Iran, Afghanistan, Soviet Ukraine, Hungary, Chile, Ethiopia, and others to make their stories heard. So I’m about a year and a half behind in delivering my novel to my publisher. You see that also in the work of someone like Chang-Rae Lee, in the thoughtful Native Speaker. TM: One last question: What are some of the habits that you think aspiring writers need to develop? And then when I got to college, I also encountered African-American literature and Asian-American literature, including Maxine Hong Kingston. Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It was, for the most part, a very intuitive process of trial and error in writing each story, which is very frustrating to me. But while part of the pleasure of sharing storytelling with him is about seeing how entertained he is, the other part of the pleasure is trying to help him understand the complexities of the stories he loves. Abrams Press • 1-4197-2948-9 • $25.00 • April 2018, “In this collection of 17 essays (one consisting of cartoons) by writers who were forced to leave their homes, Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Pulitzer-winning novelist and himself a Vietnamese refugee to America, begins to assemble one. Whether it takes you five years or 10 years or 50 years. The Vietnamese soldiers who could write these war stories don’t write in English. ISBN 13: 978-1-68335-207-5. Can you say more about how you balance historical fact with fiction? Thanks to Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation for funding this site. And so I’m trying to bring all these different strands together. I mean, the masters, the most accomplished practitioners of African-American literature—like Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison and many more—have demonstrated that you can be both politically and artistically engaged at the same time. TM: Do you read to exercise your muscles? I tried to read books that personally move me both in terms of their story and concerns, but also how they move me at the level of a sentence. TM: Lastly, what are two or three of your favorite children’s books and why? USC PAM Event: Southeast Asian Refugee Narratives, December 9, 2020 What’s your suggestion for a writer who aspires to speak to the latter group? But there are huge swaths of America where the books are not sold, and that is oftentimes a rural or red America. Currently, the two groups cannot even have a conversation with each other. As an adult, I can certainly see some of the possible problems at the heart of these stories’ conceptions, which are inseparable from colonialism, but reading them with Ellison, I can see their enduring power. EN: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules—. VTN: It was a real joy. Do you have to train different muscles for different genres? So with The Sympathizer, it was very important for me to have discovered, again, Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night or Antonio Lobo Antunes’s The Land at the End of the World, because both of those books were doing things at the level of the sentence and at the level of politics. That could be an awkward question to ask. So it’s turned me into more of an international author. Catapult, NY, 2019. We spend a lot of time reading books together, and so it was wonderful for me to see him become an early reader and then, surprisingly, a writer and artist, although as he points out above, that may be ending soon. The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives consists of essays of various writers who fled their homelands in search of a new existence. The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You. They were also marked by distinctive visual styles that charmed me and remained consistent over the series. The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Livesat BookCon Pulitzer Prize–winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, the editor of The Displaced, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers including Thi Bui and Joseph Azam to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Sometimes I get some very difficult questions from people who come from a completely different perspective. And that’s why I think a lot of Vietnamese-American literature that deals more with refugees ends up focusing on what happened in the United States. The refugee writers, simply by acknowledging that history, introduce some troubling elements into the American story. Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354 The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (Hardcover) Search form. – National Bureau of Economic Research, Bauer, Blattman, Chytilova, Henrich, Miguel and Mitts. Featuring original essays by a collection of writers from around the world, The Displaced is an indictment of closing our … The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (Hardcover) By Viet Thanh Nguyen (Editor) $25.00 . We should be aware of narrative scarcity, but we can’t let our writing be shaped by that. If I were to quantify how much time the Pulitzer cost me, that’s how much: a year and a half, because of giving lectures and responding to people and blurbing people’s books and things like that. VTN: Yeah. In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Yet in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries with the means to welcome refugees, anti-immigration politics and fear seem poised to shut the door. TM: [Laughs.] I love having a little kid at writers’ or artists’ retreats—while it’s harder for the parents, it’s a wholesome addition for everyone else and pure joy for me to have someone to play with when I need to escape from my brain. American writer Flannery O’Connor’s novella “The Displaced Person,” published in her 1955 short-story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find, concerns a family of Polish refugees, the Guizacs, who arrive at the Georgia dairy farm of Mrs. McIntyre, having been freed from the death camps of the Second World War.The Guizacs … So in Vietnam, for example, even though the book is not available, apparently young Vietnamese readers who can read English will seek the book out in English. by Viet Thanh … A collection of geographically diverse essays, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, works to illustrate how seemingly disparate refugee narratives can interlock the universality of homeland flight. We were building on momentum and hoping to further that momentum for Vietnamese diasporic writing, and we did so in the spirit of community and collaboration. So that meant that I had read some of the modernist and classical literature of the West. New York, New York 10003, (212) 420-8585, To invite Viet to do a reading or lecture, please contact Kevin Mills of the Tuesday Agency, 132 1/2 East Washington Now, the problem is, where the refugee and immigrant narratives overlap is that many refugee writers still, in the end, even as they acknowledge the refugee origin, including American intervention, often end with settlement in the United States. TM: Viet, you wrote that June 26, 2018, the day Ellison obtained literary representation, had been “an otherwise bleak day.” Did this news help offset or alleviate the sense of bleakness? Their past trauma teaches them to be self-centered to protect themselves; their recollections of the worst of humanity become the reason why we must close off our borders. Today the world faces an enormous refugee … By Viet Thanh Nguyen (Editor) $25.00 . And, in fact, life will constantly throw obstacles in your way. Publisher: Abrams Press. It’s up to me to prove that. I especially loved the illustration of the Dog King’s heart. So we were juggling a research month in Greece where I was learning about the refugee crisis there, a mother-son summer vacation, finishing Chicken of the Sea, and killing time because we missed our flight from Rome to Athens. © 1997-2020 Viet Thanh Nguyen All Rights Reserved. Viet Thanh Nguyen: Vietnamese diasporic writing is flourishing in many countries, and yet many Vietnamese diasporic writers feel as if they’re writing alone, or at least in isolation from other Vietnamese diasporic writers. That’s a trap. 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