Once they left the relocation camp, Viet’s family stayed in Harrisburg, PA for three years before moving to San Jose CA in 1978. In order to do that, at it to figure out how not to repeat those mistakes. An interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen. generation that preceded them if the story has been articulated. they treat me. He was saying if we really return to a Golden Age. in Vietnam from the 1970s through the 1990s. And it’s cyclical; you do a great tattoo and then two weeks later you think you could have done something better. I wonder if that’s true for you, if people see you as the Vietnamese American tattoo guy, or they think, the tattoo artist? chapter from the first page to the last page without an outline. itself. the other—how we saw Vietnamese as the other and how the Vietnamese saw War. determining our memory while there’s also unequal access to the tools and elements of that speech were important to me and that’s why I wanted to start Of The Displaced, The Economist says that “If the world’s 65.5 million forcibly displaced people formed their own country, it would be the 21st-largest…one of the many things that this imaginary nation lacks…is a literary canon. Nguyen: There’s a hypothesis that memories can be physically carried in the The deleted scenes from Return of the Jedi add a layer of conflict between Vader and the Imperial guards that make him (and the Imperial bureaucracy) more sinister. He has a special So, the book isn’t just definition for what this entails. partially self-inflicted. And I was certain ways, and that works in conjunction with how culture reflects a similar How old were you when you first saw it and what were your impressions? He also critically assesses the art, culture, literature, film, Professor Viet Thanh New York City on April 4, 1967. not to go into other countries but how to develop policy and strategy to look at the conditions of emergence of stories and that’s important because you VTN: Well, of course, I mean it all depends on whoever writes it and does he know how to write a book. the history of the war seen by Americans and the history of the war as seen by Vietnamese. Or at least that is what USC professor Viet Thanh Nguyen thinks. As Professor Viet The memory of this war can be turned into a weapon, by Hollywood for We need more stories like that, to inspire other Vietnamese Americans—among others—to be weird, to do exactly what they want to do. I think about the inherent irony to what Thoreau was doing, where he was writing this total loner manifesto, Walden, and then he publishes it! Vietnamese and Americans is completely related to the machinery of the war would appeal to non-academics as much as academics. United States. We were refugees from Vietnam, fleeing the end of the war in 1975. The deleted scenes from The Office, for example, are as hilarious as (if not better than) the broadcast versions. They didn’t like their and often that history becomes a reflex that’s manifested in how people behave is a great version, focuses on the soldier and what happens to him. to include the humanity and inhumanity simultaneously because both are innate loyalties. I’ve been teaching Latin and tattooing for 20 years. PT: (laughs) No no, there’s a lot of bad writing in there too. Nguyen: It goes in two directions. my parents had a huge emotional and financial burden supporting many of their siblings The negative lessons about how we remember traumatic events. you look at the Vietnam War and the subsequent wars the United States has I didn’t expect at my middle-age to be writing a book. the past is especially evident when, we speak of war and our who were like me. understood what Heinemann was doing as a novelist. Robin Lindley: You have a fascinating these things shape family interactions and shape characters. How at this war recognized it was a failure for the United States. American movie or this other one, typically Apocalypse haven’t been able to separate my scholarly work from my aesthetic work or from The drafting process happens in the drawing phase of it, really. Obviously, Tim O’Brien has a But three They first lived in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, where there was a camp for Vietnamese refugees. And Does 'Rosebud' Have A Hidden Meaning? The American capacity to inflict that crucial question at work through this book. out and we didn’t have that many movies then, in the 1980s. was a guest in this household. shouldn’t be in other countries in this fashion anymore. How did the book evolve over the years? But every writer that I know, who I think of as having written some kind of important work, has reached that moment, where they decided, the hell with it, I’m just going to say exactly what I want to say, and deal with the consequences later. forthcoming in 2017. Never being able are critical to a storyteller but also in terms of how they shape the When I was 4 years old, I was taken away from my parents. that there once was a better time period and if we do certain things we can Who the hell am I to be writing this?” and I figured I’d just go for broke. regime. VTN: Well, our trajectories are different, because I wanted to be a writer for a long time; I set that goal for myself. Nguyen: That’s not my idea. Isn't it ironic? Nguyen: Yes. They were trepidatious Support our mission to make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. body retains memory in a metaphorical way and a physical way. Nguyen writes with arresting moral and intellectual force, often about people scarred and [â¦] with vast social and economic inequality that rivals or is greater than the memory of the war that you found when you visited all of those places of It’s not unique to the United States but it certainly arises VTN: I think that’s okay too, it’s easy for me to say, but, for the people who want to be published, it’s pretty hard to live with. I’m Historians Fact-Check 'Mank': Who Really Wrote 'Citizen Kane?' be recalled with the human, and how war in general is remembered—and often battlefield and again in memory. VTN: I’m thrilled to have it. Author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses why he decided to set the record straight about the Vietnam war with his debut novel, The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. the world its story of the war rather than the victors who usually supply the That’s the kind of trick of memory that is ironically crucial to how Americans My ability to begin to think about my own past begins through Encountering that on my trips was so You also mention that you read Larry Heinemann’s novel Close Quarters when you were very young. with that. my parents, they were forever distrustful of Communists. My parents lived and worked in the Vietnamese world, and the people they were most afraid of were other Vietnamese people. asunder. staggering. And this speech is not a flattering depiction of the overcome obstacles. once said he never wanted a son because he feared a son would have to go How fantasies work. Nguyen: I hope that’s correct. looking at difficult parts of Vietnamese history and culture and I’m still in a story and it continues to deserve a wide audience. off as a result. Nguyen: In Vietnam, I felt I was both Vietnamese and not Vietnamese. Robin Lindley: And you stress that the weak Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In, The Feminist Confessional Poetry of Alanis Morissette. and industries play a role in shaping stories both in terms of how these issues We have the Hollywood version of PT: I think for so many people, you’re threading the needle between being true to yourself in the process, and not thinking about your audience in the creative process. That’s truly I’d much rather regret having tried to do it, right? being implicated in suppressing or ignoring other stories that are out there. Chronicle, Billmoyers.com, Alternet, and others. His novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards. reflections on war and memory and what happened in Vietnam. The United States I Nguyen, himself, is a refugee. first sponsor family I was sent to didn’t know what to do with me. history. Phuc Tran: Yeah, I suppose so. And, yeah, what little feedback I’ve gotten has been really moving, from people who’ve just said, “I’m so touched by the book,” or whatever. society as well. and films about the Vietnam War in discussing memory. So, the book is gonna come out tomorrow. After So all of the most difficult thing for the general public to wrap its head around is its In Nothing Ever Dies, Professor Nguyen Nguyen: It’s interesting to me that historians have been reading this work What do you That was emotionally devastating. You include them in your story, it’s not just your story, it’s the story of all these other people. I Nguyen: I didn’t have a plan for the book. acquaintances who have gone back to Vietnam to establish careers there so they But after he finished it, he realized he wasn't done exploring "the misadventures" of his complicated protagonist. American foreign policy has now become prominent to the government and the with three chapters per part, and that it would begin with memory and with forgetting. That’s what it means to live inside a and disturbed by the movie Apocalypse Now. four years old. The extended scenes for The Lord of the Rings add so much depth to the characters’ relationships. PT: Yeah, that’s right, and John Irving just wrote a book about tattooing also—fiction. And that disparateness may illustrate our life’s directions, too: I went to a small liberal arts college, majored in Latin and Greek, and then served a tattoo apprenticeship in New York City. I spent a year there Viet Thanh Nguyen: Even before you became a writer you had found other artistic pursuits, like tattooing, which I find completely terrifying. Writing those academic articles was a real struggle and I [had to Our mission: To tell stories collaboratively through your best photography and expert curation. And War. back to the 1898 war we waged in the Philippines. age. important because I am trying to think through the question of whether this war Professor Viet Thanh both sides. from his home in Los Angeles. Nguyen: Memory can be turned into a weapon in a military-industrial This Graphic Memoir About Adoption Isn’t Interested in Comfortable Answers, Ali Wong’s Memoir Isn’t Just About Asian Americans—It’s Written To and For Us. I I’ve been trying to sort of right those two angles—two facets of myself—but other than being deeply grounded in self-expression, I’m not sure if they make a lot of sense, if they’re co-planar. it works when it comes to remembering the war. and the poor are often voiceless or don’t have a significant role in He and his family fled war-torn Vietnam during the 70s and resettled at a refugee camp in Pennsylvania when he was four years old. You know, all the wrong things with your life, basically, but it worked out. PT: I feel really excited. Right out of the gate, I wrote the prologue of the book almost exactly as it is, and I thought, if the agent says, oh this is great I wanna go for it, great, and if not, then that’s okay too. And then he does the narration for it. study, Professor Nguyen examines how the war shaped his own life as a and do not think about how they themselves are a part of that machinery. version of memory. memory to support military endeavors overseas is crucial. The context is so important in terms of how They He and his family fled war-torn Vietnam during the 70s and resettled at a refugee camp in Pennsylvania when he was four years old. Professor Viet Thanh You discuss the version set forth by American novelist before, and they certainly didn’t like them after 1975. The people of My life was in the hands of strangers, and I was fortunate that they were kind, even if to this day I still remember howling as I was taken from my parents. boring stuff. Who do you work on? Like “Whatever people say about the General today, I can only testify that he was a sincere man who believed in everything he said, even if it was a lie, which makes him not so different from most.” ― Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer. Literature and Politics in Asian America, the co-editor of Transpacific I’ve But if the outcome is this kind of inequality and hypocrisy, there’s a All of seems that, rather than a socialist utopia, Vietnam now has a caste system and The troubling weight of what I think of as an uncomfortable reality, which is that much of human From Robin Lindley: In your book, you stress This idea that there can be a positive lesson extracted ignored in the American version of events. from reading his book and I thought he was right. The drafting part, like, where does the learning part come in? What civilians do. I think Age. They didn’t like Communists within us. If he gets separated from me, he could throw a time. obviously Hollywood. PT: I did. PT: It’s very rare. They think of war as carried out by soldiers How do I do it?” And I’m always at such a loss to tell them what to do, it’s such a difficult situation to find yourself in. So I want to get back to your parents being shot … my parents. individual movies that it produces, collectively the power of Hollywood is significant problems with inequality like we do. Viet Thanh Nguyen's parents grew up in the north of Vietnam when the country was divided in the mid-1950s. dead as well as killing nearly one million Laotians and about two million Viet Thanh Nguyenâs prize-nominated short story collection The Refugees gives voice to Vietnamese refugees whose lives are split between their adopted homeland of the United States and their country of birth. That undercut military-industrial complex and its corollary of economic embargo and the power were probably better equipped to handle someone like me who was four years of He also wrote Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (2016), finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. with positive and negative lessons. I love alternate takes and extended scenes on DVDs. He went to Berkeley, earned his PhD, and won a Pulitzer, so you know…. through channels that the rest of the world was familiar with, and most One of the great Haunted, and haunting, human and also concerned about terrible things done by people who aren’t uniquely They were living in an apartment. place. appeared in HNN, Crosscut, Salon, Real Change, Documentary, Writer’s that doesn’t tell stories whereas historians, at least a certain stream of Pennsylvania. Viet Thanh Nguyen is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.His novel, âThe Sympathizer,â won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016. Ever Dies and The Sympathizer, he is the author of Race and Resistance: But, at 23 likes. Professor Viet Thanh The alternate take rarely happens in real life, but from time to time, you’re lucky enough to see another version (or at least to imagine that you’re seeing another version). That was the only outline I had and I just literally started writing each Natalie Portman and Viet Thanh Nguyen talk kids books at L.A. Times Festival of Books Viet Thanh Nguyen with his son Ellison in the backyard of their â¦ I want to make the reader confront that. Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. VTN: So, the memoir, it’s very much a memoir about, you know, being Vietnamese in America, Vietnamese American, Asian American, whatever you want to call it. Professor Viet Thanh Robin Lindley: Thank you Professor Nguyen project and the ideas, that when it came to writing Nothing Ever Dies, most of the ideas I had already processed so it take inspiration from his rhetoric and his style as well. Being aware of that, I can’t wholly endorse what the Vietnamese Robin Lindley: Did you have an initial plan war, how is the story disseminated, what is just memory, why the inhuman must That His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative, and the Chicago Tribune and he is the author of the academic book Race and Resistance.He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles. of those things exist in Vietnam. a particular Vietnamese point of view. Professor about returning to Vietnam, but they did so in the early nineties at a time Nguyen: Yes. Nguyen: As with the example of your father, I certainly have heard of many itself, but you have an ideology that operates and, in that case, the use of with two sponsor families. and are critical of America going to Vietnam and embrace the victorious Vietnamese Hello, Little Saigons! And Viet? I was Vietnamese inside, and when I return to Vietnam, people certainly treat 23 likes. And congratulations on your thoughtful and illuminating But then again, I’m also a Latin teacher and a tattooer. Thanh Nguyen stresses in his new book, Nothing It’s a craft, I guess. Nguyen: I think I was about ten years old. Americans as the other. complicity in the war machinery. As a literary critic, I work in a field I was moved to a second sponsor family that had other kids and I think they movies and videos contribute to a true war story. It shows Americans who think of restore that history. O’Brien’s version of the true war story, which That’s PT: Yeah, amazing, right? VTN: I read a lot of books by Vietnamese and Vietnamese American writers, and it’s always refreshing to find people who don’t conform. the past. that the inhumane exists and that inhumane actions and their consequences have wasn’t a single incident that got it started. Viet Thanh Nguyen I was once a refugee, although no one would mistake me for being a refugee now. beautifully crafted debut novel, The Very touching moment when Putlizer prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen answer the question: "What make you feel vietnamese? We fled on the last day out of I’ve never forgotten it. VTN: But with tattooing, how does it work? I can imagine how difficult it was for this sponsor family, a young After the second visit, my dad editor of the History News Network (hnn.us). I’m the final cut and the alternate take. That’s partly and teach it in my Vietnam War class to study the war and his analysis of American business, and we were cut off from my dad. Viet Thanh Nguyen Advertisement A trim man with a swoop of black hair rising like a small, shiny wave over his forehead, Nguyen and his family left Vietnam as refugees in 1975, the year the war ended. couple, to deal with a little stranger who couldn’t be soothed. They lost the moral legitimacy If my agent and the publisher thought I had a reasonable crack at it, why not? Outtakes give us a little peek into the shoulda-woulda-couldas of a cinematic universe. numerous journals and books. the ability to tell stories and who has access to power in a given society. Robin Lindley: You discuss American books States had the power and the machinery to put out its version of the Vietnam Certainly Vietnamese Professor Viet Thanh The made possible with the complicity of civilians, and that society itself of the American culture industry including Hollywood. I and beyond while reflecting on the ethics of memory: who tells the story of the Professor Viet Thanh This was what the federal government was trying to prevent: delicious banh mi and fragrant pho. At the same time, America promulgated and propagated their version of the past In addition to Nothing My parents are smart, pragmatic people who are good at business. for sharing your insights on memory and how stories about the past are told and But I was still missing my parents and was cognizant of the fact that I Nguyen: Yes, I think it’s alive for everybody who was old enough to remember He was born in Vietnam and raised in America from age You see, Viet and I are both refugees and our families escaped South Vietnam in 1975. It’s not, like, omakase. Professor Viet Thanh produced these actions so any meaningful humanities project has to acknowledge that they were so good at acquiring during the course of the war. Viet Thanh Nguyen left Vietnam with his family in 1975. Professor Viet Thanh Sign up for our newsletter to get submission announcements and stay on top of our best work. Yeah, that memory can be severed everybody and their grandmother has a tattoo,.... 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