• Kim Huynh

Chopsticks Alley List of 2016 Vietnamese American Must-Read Books


The Sympathizer

Viet Thanh Nguyen

The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.

Republished from Amazon.com.

Dragonfish

Vu Tran

A thrilling and cinematic work of sophisticated suspense and haunting lyricism, set in motion by characters who can neither trust each other nor trust themselves. This remarkable debut is a noir page-turner resonant with the lasting reverberations of lives lost and lives remade a generation ago.

Republished from Amazon.com.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Ocean Vuong

Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times writes: “The poems in Mr. Vuong’s new collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds…possess a tensile precision reminiscent of Emily Dickinson’s work, combined with a Gerard Manley Hopkins-like appreciation for the sound and rhythms of words. Mr. Vuong can create startling images (a black piano in a field, a wedding-cake couple preserved under glass, a shepherd stepping out of a Caravaggio painting) and make the silences and elisions in his verse speak as potently as his words…There is a powerful emotional undertow to these poems that springs from Mr. Vuong’s sincerity and candor, and from his ability to capture specific moments in time with both photographic clarity and a sense of the evanescence of all earthly things.”

Fish in Exile

Vi Khi Nao

Nao’s (The Old Philosopher) probing, wrenching novel follows a married couple after the deaths of their two children. Two years following the deaths, husband Ethos and wife Catholic have drifted apart: Catholic is sleeping with the couple’s neighbor, Callisto; Ethos has left his job as a school principal and spends his days wandering around their seaside New England home and trying to mend their marriage. The couple’s searching and sometimes troubled psychological states manifest themselves in strange ways: Ethos builds small coffins and buries dead jellyfish; Catholic fashions outfits for their two fish (“I am behaving so strangely. I know I can’t turn a dress or a fish into a little girl, but my heart itches”). Midway through, Ethos’s mother, Charleen, visits them with her own troubled baggage. The novel’s language can become too abstract, but Nao skillfully grounds the story through mundane objects (Ethos methodically constructs aquariums for their fish, while Catholic at one point imagines deconstructing a bike into its individual parts), and direct, often funny dialogue: one particularly memorable exchange occurs when a boy asks Catholic why all their pictures are hung backward, and she replies they’re in time-out for capturing too much. The result is a novel that forges a new vocabulary for the routine of grief, as well as the process of healing.

Republished from Publishers’ Weekly Review

The Unquiet Daughter

Danielle Flood

Danielle Flood, a journalist born of the wartime love triangle that inspired the one in Graham Greene's The Quiet American, searches for her father after surviving a bizarre youth of privilege, estrangement and cruelty. As she yearns for her father's love and presence, Danielle's beautiful French and Vietnamese mother leaves her in burlesque house dressing rooms in the American Midwest, in convent schools in Long Island and Dublin, and with strangers in New York City. Meanwhile she lies to Danielle about their past for decades in this sometime-humorous near-tragic love story between a daughter and a mother and more. In the end we learn if Flood's journey through the truth of what happened between her parents in early 1950's Saigon satisfies her lifelong quest for who she is.

Republished from Amazon.com

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Kim Huynh

Editor - Literature

A Bay Area native, Kim graduated from Stanford in 2014 with an Honors Degree in English Literature and an emphasis in Creative Non-Fiction Writing. She has worked on the editorial team of the Stanford Lawyer, blogged for the statewide non-profit close the gap CA, and had her writing published in The Stanford Daily, the Tracy Press, and on GradeSaver.com, an essay editing service with a reach of 4.2 million monthly users. Her honors thesis, "Bitter in the South: On Race, Place, and Allegory in Monique Truong's Bitter in the South," was sparked by her deep interest in Vietnamese American literature—an interest she's thrilled to pursue through Chopsticks Alley.

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