Viet Thanh Nguyen is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.His novel, “The Sympathizer,” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016. Find books But President Obama has a role to play in this, because these are the two facets of the American character: Obama and inclusion, on the one hand, Drumpf and exclusion, on the other. And instead of his face being there in the photograph, the face of a native of some sort from across some part of the Third World—we don’t know where—is plastered onto that face. Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam in 1971. I’m Amy Goodman. Having more voices for the voiceless is a temporary measure, but achieving situations where everybody has their voice heard would require a radical reorganization of our society. VIET THANH NGUYEN: Bigger than France, too, to put it in another perspective. I sometimes came into the kitchen to find him eating butter. But we isolate those, and we forget about those, and we don’t think of those issues—those people as being refugees. They asked me, “Do you want to change your name?” And I thought—. A big congratulations to Viet Thanh Nguyen, who is joining the Pulitzer Prize Board as its first Asian-American and Vietnamese-American member. 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). Lev Golinkin They’re unwanted where they come from. AMY GOODMAN: “Bang Bang” by Vietnamese musician Thanh Lan. Even for readers seeking to help, the sheer scale of the problem renders the experience of refugees hard to comprehend. I don’t know how I learned English. ARIEL DORFMAN: No, I’m talking about the fact that during 17 years after September 11th, 1973, very slowly, the Chilean people organized, took over the streets, took over the country, and finally got rid of the dictator in a nonviolent revolution. Unlike him, I will never be a stranger to my children. Do you each have a question for each other? Joseph Kertes So, it’s very important that when we look at these situations, we put them in the context of things the United States has done, because it would allow the people of the United States to say, “You know what? If food was ever left out, he ate it. I feel that to have done that gives a certain meaning to my life, in that sense. AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, at home, to his own shock, some of his closest immigrant rights allies ended up calling him the “deporter-in-chief.” He deported millions and millions and millions of immigrants to this country. And it was at one time, you know, a call for mobilization and resistance. AMY GOODMAN: People who are listening on the radio can’t see that you’re using air quotes. For review copies or bookstore events, contact for The Sympathizer or The Refugees and Margaux Leonard of Harvard University Press for Nothing Ever Dies. But in the United States, you can do that. “Now, America, You Know How Chileans Felt.” We’re going to talk about that in a minute. He takes over the life and the face and the identity, and forces this young, typical American kid to face what his own country has been doing in these countries. It gives me hope to find a space where the pain that I have endured and that others have endured of my community, which is an enormous community, right? And people of Chile—. There’s a gentleness that we have to find in our relationship. Writer Viet Thanh Nguyen lives the insider-outsider life of a refugee. Porochista Khakpour VIET THANH NGUYEN: Well, I grew up in a Vietnamese refugee community in the 1970s and 1980s in San Jose. His dad works at the Polaroid factory. You’re writing this—because they say that to me all the time. And it’s all related to human zoos, which is another topic which is very central to the story. And all it really means is that the audience just wants to hear one person speak for an entire community. ", "I am ever working, overworking, because I’m aware of the potential, as a non-white body and passport holder from ‘Africa,’ without the safety of ‘being at home,’ of my easy disposal from the political imagination of the world. AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we’re going to continue the conversation and post it online at Now, the issue is that if we get wrapped up in a domestic discussion about Obama versus Drumpf, we forget that President Obama himself also tends to represent some of the worst instincts of the American character overseas, in terms of the continuing exertion of American imperial power. And last night I asked Arundhati Roy, “Is it exhausting to be a writer who’s constantly engaged and committed?” And she said, “No, it’s exhilarating.” And I thought, “That’s a great answer.” And I want to pose that to you: Do you find it exhausting or exhilarating to be in your situation? —Bustle, “With more than a dozen essays on refugees from writers throughout the world, the collection—edited by Nguyen—attempts a vital task: to give voice to the oft-silenced and to redirect the current stream of anti-refugee rhetoric and sentiment in a more just and humanizing direction. It’s a great honor to have you with us. Well, I mean, what I said in that New York Timespiece was, basically, “You know, America, you are now, legitimately, speaking about how the Russians intervened in your elections, right? They felt that they had lost their country. 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. And there’s only one place in the world where every Latin American food can be found in one place, and that’s the United States. These people had lost everything. Aleksandar Hemon University of Southern California And in 1975, when Vietnam fell, or was liberated, depending on your point of view, my family became refugees. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma It’s a language in which I understand when people say, “Go back to where you came from.” And I can’t go back to where I came from. They would speak about them. Viet Thanh Nguyen on trauma, displacement, and identifying as a refugee Pulitzer prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen is the guest on this episode of Displaced, and talks to Grant and Ravi about his … I’m very interested in love stories now, because I think it’s very important that we understand how that love and a woman—especially I’m interested in empowering women in the stories, right? And they were displayed in zoos, and millions of people, as if in reality shows, would go there. This panel, a part of BookCon, was moderated by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Even people who don’t like immigrants like the idea of immigrants wanting to come to this country, because it affirms how great this country is supposed to be, the narrative of the American dream. So, I have been a refugee several times over. They’re strange. President Drumpf has repeatedly railed against the asylum seekers. Those people who are coming across the border, supposedly invading us, are the result of multiple invasions of their lands in the past and of very specific forms of drug wars and wars in their countries right now, which the United States has sponsored. And I know that there have been voices for the voiceless before me and that there will be voices for the voiceless after me. AMY GOODMAN: In your book The Displaced, you write in the introduction, “I was once a refugee, although no one would mistake me for being a refugee now. So, for example, this caravan of immigrants has—and refugees, has come up from Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador, as well. AMY GOODMAN: Your life is a lesson to everyone in this country, Viet. His latest book is called The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. 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. Again, we just see images of refugees suffering on boats, dying and so on. ARIEL DORFMAN: That whole idea of the exotic, of that they’re different. Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. I mean, it’s really weird. ", "I think of all the routes of emigration taken by refugees like us, routes that have been carved into memory, into family stories. They were all part of a month-long caravan that brought refugees fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to the U.S. border. I had to leave Chile for Europe. Email, For review copies or bookstore events, contact for The Sympathizer or The Refugees and Margaux Leonard of Harvard University Press for Nothing Ever Dies, Literary, translation, and film rights are handled by Nat Sobel at Sobel Weber Associates, 146 East 19 Street He’s the author of three books, including The Sympathizer, which won the Pulitzer Prize. This is a refugee novel, a war novel. And, for me, I always felt this burden that, as an Asian American, as someone from Asia, I’m not expected to speak English or to speak it well, so there was always a huge opportunity here for me to disprove that and, even more than that, to prove that I could be better at English than people who were born here and who claim American identity. Those refugees who actually make it here to this country and become successful, I think, find it easier to call themselves immigrants, because when you introduce yourself as a refugee at a cocktail party, it really kills the conversation. Also, 10% of the cover price of the book will be donated annually to the International Rescue Committee, so I hope readers will help support this book and the vast range of voices that fill its pages.” I thought I would be there forever. Between October and the end of March, just 10,500 refugees entered the United States. So, there’s been a big French influence in Vietnamese popular music. A refugee is an official classification. Viet, let us begin with you. The editing is by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanah Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam before the fall of South Vietnam … Maaza Mengiste Joseph Azam He is the author of three books, including “The Sympathizer,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and he teaches at the University of Southern California. You know, it’s not rhetoric on his part. —The Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Together, the stories share similar threads of loss and adjustment, of the confusion of identity, of wounds that heal and those that don’t, of the scars that remain.“ Because of this, I insist on being called a refugee, since the temptation to pretend that I am not a refugee is strong. AMY GOODMAN: And each time they take his picture that day, that face. The end result is an accessible and engaging dialogue that mines memories, many of them traumatic, and delivers on its global message of displacement and loss... it goes without saying that Nguyen’s collection, with its unapologetic repositioning of the refugee front and center, couldn’t have arrived at a more critical time.” AMY GOODMAN: You have related—after the election of Drumpf, you related it to the CIA-backed coup that took out the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende back in 1973. Literary, translation, and film rights are handled by Nat Sobel at … 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner Viet Thanh Nguyen reads with contributors Kao Kalia Yang and Vu Tran from The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. ", "For four years, [my father’s] family lived deep inside Russia, a time characterized by constant hunger. Department of English But refugees bring up these ideas of migrants at the border, of people on boats, and many Americans just do not relate to that. ARIEL DORFMAN: I find it—I find it exhilarating, but I’m a bit tired, I must tell you, because I’m a bit older than Arundhati—I’m considerably older than you are, right?—and I’ve been doing this for a very long time. Becoming a refugee means watching as those anchors are severed, one by one, until at last you’re floating outside of society, an untethered phantom in need of a new life. You have to look inside the United States and say, “OK, if it’s wrong for the Russians to intervene in the U.S. election”—and it’s certainly wrong—”it’s wrong for any country to intervene in the sovereign affairs of another nation.” We should allow other nations to decide their fate. Your browser does not support the audio element. I could go on and on and on, on about this. It’s a little bit exaggerated.” You know, ¡Soy latinoamericano, carajo! Living in exile, he became one of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s most vocal critics, as well as a celebrated playwright and novelist. You write, “To become a refugee is to know, inevitably, that the past is not only marked by the passage of time, but by loss—the loss of loved ones, of countries, of identities, of selves. And they don’t fit into the narrative of the American dream. These writers explore and … It simply called itself American, right? The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives consists of essays of various writers who fled their homelands in search of a new existence. Reyna Grande questions the line between “official” refugee and “illegal” immigrant, chronicling the disintegration of the family forced to leave her behind; Fatima Bhutto visits Alejandro Iñárritu’s virtual reality border crossing installation “Flesh and Sand”; Aleksandar Hemon recounts a gay Bosnian’s answer to his question, “How did you get here?”; Thi Bui offers two uniquely striking graphic panels; David Bezmozgis writes about uncovering new details about his past and attending a hearing for a new refugee; and Hmong writer Kao Kalia Yang recalls the courage of children in a camp in Thailand. And for them, the war hasn’t ended either. And as a writer, what I like is to take those voices, that are not voiceless—they speak very strongly—the faces of those people, and bring them into the country and put them inside our own dreams and find out what happens. —The Millions. Many of us would want to deny it or forget it. Notify me via e-mail if anyone answers my comment. We’re also joined by Chilean-American writer Ariel Dorfman, who’s been described as one of the greatest Latin American novelists. And I like the idea of smuggling ourselves across the border, which, by the way, of course, is a border which was created by a U.S. invasion of Mexico. Copyright © 2018 - Abrams Press, An Imprint of ABRAMS, *Excerpt from the recording THE DISPLACED: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives by Viet Thanh Nguyen, reprinted under a license arrangement originating with Brilliance Publishing, Inc., And I think Drumpf is the incarnation—really, incarnation—and the excrement of that denial of the past. He’s not just speaking it. 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