The Refugees

The Refugees

Large Print - 2017
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"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine :, Thorndike Press,, 2017
Edition: Large print edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781432839024
1432839020
Characteristics: 271 pages (large print) ; 23 cm
large print,rda

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j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

I knew the basics of our history as well as I knew the story of Adam and Eve: the Communists had marched from North Vietnam in 1975 to invade South Vietnam, driving us out, all the way across the Pacific to California.
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“There’s a reason why saints are martyred. Nobody can stand them.”
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He tried to forget what he’d discovered, how little other lives mattered to him when his own was at stake.
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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.
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They were there in the kitchen with us, the ghosts of the refugees and the ghosts of the pirates, the ghost of the boat watching us with those eyes that never closed, even the ghost of the girl I once was, the only ghosts my mother feared.
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“You died too,” he said. “You just don’t know it.”

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

“I’m sorry to hear about your husband and your sons.” “Sorry for what?” Mrs. Hoa’s voice was shrill. “Whoever said my husband was dead? No one saw him die. No one saw my youngest son die, either. They’re alive, and no one like you is going to tell me otherwise.”
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Everyone needs a doctor or a lawyer, but who needs a philosopher? We can get advice for free from the priest.”
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“There’s no doubt about it. They don’t believe in God and they don’t believe in money.” “But they believe in taking other people’s money,” my father said.
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“I haven’t come back,” he said. “I’ve come here.” “You haven’t left this world yet?”
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“The dead move on,” he had said, coiled in his armchair, hands between his thighs. “But the living, we just stay here.”
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“Are you going to be the kind of person who always pays the asking price?” my mother demanded. “Or the kind who fights to find out what something’s really worth?”

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

“It’s like beautiful people and ugly people,” Louis said. “Beautiful people can’t let on that they need ugly people. But without the ugly, the beautiful wouldn’t look half so good. Am I right? Tell me I’m right.”
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“The moral of the story is this,” Louis said, choosing a bird for himself. “The more fakes there are, the more that people who can’t buy the real things want them. And the more people buy the fakes, the more the real things are worth. Everybody wins.”
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“We all tell ourselves what we want to hear. The point, Arthur, is this: Do you want to hear what I’m telling myself?”
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For those with limited income, didn’t the right to own some Italian style trump any possible losses to Dolce & Gabbana?
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“You see how the Communists weren’t satisfied with killing my son once?” Mrs. Hoa aimed her gaze at me. “They killed him twice when they desecrated his grave. They don’t respect anybody, not even the dead.”

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

With age was supposed to come wisdom, but he wasn’t certain what wisdom felt like, whereas intelligence he knew to be a constant firing of the synapses, the brain a six-barreled Gatling gun of activity. Now his mind was shooting thoughts through only one or two barrels.
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Louis preferred to say “better than genuine.” But, he always emphasized, his wares actually were better, in the sense of being much, much cheaper.
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“I’ve tried love,” Louis said, as if it were a kind of soft, malodorous French cheese.
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...his fountain pens with their plastic barrels, his sunglasses without ultraviolet protection, his watches that kept perfect time for a day, his designer jackets without linings, his pants with hems that unraveled easily, his discs of pirated movies filmed surreptitiously in theaters, his reproductions of Microsoft software so perfect as to come with the bugs infesting the genuine item, his pseudopills that might or might not help, might or might not harm—

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

A window and narrow horizontal slits at the top of the high walls provided ventilation, the air pushed about by a ceiling fan that rotated as slowly as a chicken on a spit.
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“You’re not a native,” Carver said. “You’re an American.” “That’s a problem I’m trying to correct.”
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“We’re a mixed bag.” “They don’t know what to make of us?” Michiko said. “I’m used to it, but you’re not.” “Try being a Japanese wife at a Michigan air base in 1973.” “Touché,” Claire said. “Try being a black man in Japan,” Carver said. “Or Thailand.”
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But seen up close, from this height, the countryside was so poor that the poverty was neither picturesque nor pastoral: tin-roofed shacks with dirt floors, a man pulling up the leg of his shorts to urinate on a wall, laborers wearing slippers as they pushed wheelbarrows full of bricks.
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“I said I have a Vietnamese soul. It’s a figure of speech. It’s an expression."

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

He had never explained to Claire the difficulty of precision bombing, aiming from forty thousand feet at targets the size of football fields, like dropping golf balls into a coffee cup from the roof of a house.
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Before Michiko and the children, he believed he would die in an airplane or behind the wheel of a very fast car, anything involving high velocity and a sudden, arresting stop. Now he knew he would probably die with panic pooling in his lungs, in a place where he was not supposed to be, on the wrong side of the world.
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I was thirty-three, but my father didn’t think anyone was a man until he fathered children.
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Mimi was the first of my father’s mistresses and girlfriends that I’d seen, the mysterious women that my mother screamed about to my father behind their bedroom door when my brothers and sisters and I were younger.
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Vietnamese women took care of their men, doted on them, and these same women wanted men like me, neither too American nor too Vietnamese.

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

“Who says I want her back?” “Don’t be an idiot. You were only half a man before you met her, and you’re back to being half a man now.”
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“If I go back, they will call me a war criminal. They will put me in reeducation, and you will never hear from me again.”
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“A beautiful country,” she said, which was what everyone said about it. “Poor and hot, but beautiful.”
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I hadn’t known Los Angeles even had oil. But I guess oil was to be found in every part of the world, just like anger and sorrow.
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“The only way a man knows right from wrong is when he makes a choice.”
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“I never loved your mother.” “I don’t want to hear it.” “But I respected her,” he continued. “She was dutiful. She was a good woman. My father chose her for me because she was a virtuous girl, even though he knew I loved someone else. And this is why I never chose any woman for you. I wanted you to find a woman you loved.”

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

The truth of the matter was that my father and mother should have married other people, even though, in that case, I might never have been born.
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“Tell me something,” she said. The curve of her smile straightened into a thin, hard line. “Aren’t there times when you’d rather be someone else besides you?”
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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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Even after a week in Saigon, Vivien would appear no more of a native than on the day she arrived, at least in outdoor settings. On the streets, at sidewalk cafés, or hopping into a taxi, she was easily mistaken for a Korean businessman’s frazzled wife or a weary Japanese tourist, her frosting of makeup melting under the tropical glare.

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

“These are tourist prices.” “These are foolish prices.”
===
Without question or criticism, he followed Vivien’s plan for visiting temples and cathedrals, shopping malls and museums, beaches and resorts, south through the Mekong Delta, east to Vung Tau, north to Dalat, and, within Saigon, from the dense, cacophonous alleys of the Chinese quarter in Cho Lon to the glamour of downtown’s Dong Khoi, where Nam Kha was the most expensive restaurant on the boulevard.
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Now, so far as Phuong could tell, he wore his sadness and defeat in a paunch barely contained by the buttons of a shirt one size too small for him.
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“Ghosts don’t live by our rules. Each ghost is different. Good ghosts, bad ghosts, happy ghosts, sad ghosts. Ghosts of people who die when they’re old, when they’re young, when they’re small. You think baby ghosts behave the same as grandfather ghosts?”

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

“You want to talk about bad luck? After the Americans abandoned us and the Communists sent me to the labor camp, we ate roots and manioc to live. There were worms in the rice, which was mostly water. People caught dysentery or malaria or dengue fever like the common cold and just died. It was amazing we had blood left for the leeches.”
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Vivien’s shins and thighs were studded with the pale bumps of fresh bites and the red kernels of fermenting ones.
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“This, ladies and gentlemen, a punji trap.” Mr. Ly spoke in English, beckoning for the group to halt. The two dozen tourists, all Westerners, stepped close to the bamboo trapdoor. He spun it on its hinge until it was vertical, revealing a pit as deep as a grave and as long as a coffin, a dozen sharp wooden stakes embedded in the earth. “Step on trapdoor, you fall in.”

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q
QuentinHayes
Sep 14, 2017

Such an excellent book. I, too, grew up in San Jose from a different migrant ethnicity, but the issues, especially in terms of masculinity that Viet Nguyen explores in this book are deeply recognizable. All through the book I felt that every single word was true. This is a true gift to fiction.

t
theequ1nn
Jun 28, 2017

A terrible disappointment. Nothing close to his first offering. It's like he had all these ideas for a book, but couldn't get a full novel out of any of these and just decided to go the short story route. bah-humbug

e
EmilyEm
Jun 13, 2017

Short stories featuring Vietnamese refugee protagonists making adjustments to new lives in the US and in some cases, Vietnam. Touching, funny, poignant. It’s a slim volume with riches in each story.

l
lukasevansherman
Apr 27, 2017

"If you're going to bomb a country, his roommate in U-Tapao said, you should at least drink its beer."-"The Americans"
Vietnamese-American writer Viet Thanh Nguyen first novel, "The Refugees," was one of the most impressive debuts in recent memories and his second book, a collection of short stories, confirms that he is a vital and distinctive new voice. In my opinion, we're in a twilight of the white male writers moment (All you Jonathans can just retire.) and the future of American fiction belongs to writers like Nguyen, who can approach culture from multiple perspectives and experiences. All the stories here are about both figurative and literal exiles.

b
brangwinn
Mar 25, 2017

I read this book while in Viet Nam. The short stories gave me a glimpse of what life is like for people who have had to leave their homeland. I enjoyed the humor as well as the emotions so clearly expressed in the actions and words of the characters. I liked this book even more than The Sympathizes.

w
writermala
Mar 25, 2017

If there is a sophomore jinx for writers, Viet Thanh Nguyen certainly does not suffer from it. While his debut novel, "The Sympathizer" won him the coveted Pulitzer Prize, its successor, his collection of short stories, "The Refugees" shows that "The SYmpathizer" was no flash in the pan. Nguyen has portrayed exceeding well the Vietnamese American experience in this book and while it is an easy read it is very thought provoking.

j
jimg2000
Mar 16, 2017

Familiar yet different short stories on the unique Vietnamese refugee experience through selected subjects and topics of people forced to escape their homeland to start life anew; "I knew the basics of our history as well as I knew the story of Adam and Eve: the Communists had marched from North Vietnam in 1975 to invade South Vietnam, driving us out, all the way across the Pacific to California."
Black-Eyed Women - Ghosts ★★★★½
The Other Man - Same sex culture ★★
War Years - A die-hard freedom fighter ★★★★★
The Transplant - Uncommon assimilation ★★★★
I’d Love You to Want Me - Vietnamese version of movie "45 Years 2016" based on the short story "In Another Country" ★★★½
The Americans - Multi-racial family tourists in Vietnam ★★★½
Someone Else Besides You - Like Father, like son ... except on love ★★★
Fatherland - The American dream ★★½

AL_PRINAL Mar 03, 2017

A timely collection of stories about people who came to the U.S. as refugees or foreigners and had to adapt and build new lives. The author's enlightened perspective goes beyond the traumatic and often violent experiences that got with becoming a refugee--something we can witness on the daily news everyday--and takes on the longer-enduring question of what happens when those fleeing their homes succeed in stage one and move on to stage two--becoming a new person in the land of refuge.
The stories are surprising in their variedness. Each is a gem. The characters are alive and touching. Viet Thanh Nguyen is a master story teller and knows how to capture the readers' interest

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