The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Capture d_écran 2017-04-10 à 00.42.28Pulitzer winner,  Viet Thanh Nguyen came back with yet another amazing novel, a short stories collection depicting the lives of the Vietnamese refugees.

For those of you who didn’t know already, I’m Vietnamese. Born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City #REPRESENT. Reading this collection has made me extremely nostalgic about my childhood roots but also extremely grateful for my parents, my family and all my Vietnamese people out there. This novel reminds us of our own traditions. Somewhere between our everyday lives in America and dealing with obstacles in life, there’s always our cultural root that remains and embodies us.

What I find astonishing is the ability of the author to not only talk about the Vietnamese roots, but the values he conveyed, and how they are without boundaries. I think any refugee from any country would relate to these stories for it deals with grief, loss, family internal conflict and fitting in in a new country; how to live the American Dream when you are a refugee. 


The first story, The Blacked Eyed Women, introduced us to a ghost writer who sees her dead brother. I had a wistful affection for that specific story because the ghost tale he mentioned is a well known myth that my grandparents always told me about. Simply the feeling of it, under Viet Thanh’s pen, is enchanting. I was able to revive one of my childhood memories at the exact moment when my grandparents had told me that tale. That simple chapter, you may find it obvious or apparent, but I think it’s the manifest of his own struggle that stands out. It’s the dilemma between a writer, having the ability to deliver a message of so many witnesses versus the others, not so lucky, being a  ghost writer who got the skills but not the name.

I think if I continue any longer, I’ll be able to analyze every short story from his novel LOL.  But the important thing that I want you all to remember from this book is that Viet Thanh has masterfully illustrated the history of not only my parents and ancestors but also my generation without going into politics and wars. THIS RIGHT HERE, is a winner for me. His short stories consider the point of views of sons and daughters, that means it includes those who are in my generation and those not so very far from it. Because we were all daughters and sons in some point in our lives right?

Would you like to read it ? Did you read it ? How did you like it ? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section 🙂

You can purchase the book here : Chapter/Indigo or Amazon Canada

I want to say a special thank you to the author himself, for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review 😀 

P.S: If you are reading this, Mr Viet Thanh Nguyen, I’d love to meet you some time if you ever come to Montreal 😀

Here’s a recent interview of the author :




  • Wow this sounds like an incredible book Trang, and it’s both amazing that it was so well written and that it brought all those emotions up for you as well. I think that’s definitely the sign of a good book, when it makes you feel something like this one did.
    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wonderful review and even more wonderful for me to find out you’re Vietnamese- fantastic! 🙂
    It sounds great to be able to read something that connects you to your roots. It’s the best feeling ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thank you for sharing a bit of who you are! I love when I am able to explore cultures and history through books, but am not always sure of where to start or which titles convey these experiences best. Your review has been tremendously insightful. I love that this is presented in a collection of stories. I would definitely read this!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Very well done review, I have heard his second book isn’t as good as his first. I am interested in giving the first one a try and see if I like it. But over all it was nice to hear your personal perspective on it:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Sympathizer was A GOD-LIKE READ. THAT IS CERTAIN. I think the second novel, people expect that same spark but it’s just a different medium. This is a short story collection compared to a novel fiction story. But yess definitely I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE SYMPATHIZER 😀 ! Let me know when you get the chance to read it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  • Great review. I imagine this was an important read for you since you’re also Vietnamese and are looking for this kind of book to resonate with you. “Somewhere between our everyday lives in America and dealing with obstacles in life, there’s always our cultural root that remains and embodies us.” That’s is a great line. It’s inspired me to learn more about different cultures and about issues like the refugee crisis. I think I’ll start by adding this to my TBR.

    Thanks for sharing.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that quote ! And there so much more in the book, I could’ve written a whole 500 pages essay on ever short story if I could LOL I think the fact that I’m from another country makes me want to have tools and stories to connect with my origins even more 🙂 Thank you for reading my review ❤ !

      Liked by 1 person

  • I’m so glad this doesn’t have anything to do with wars or politics as those can get pretty heavy, pretty fast. For me, anyway.
    Exploring a culture’s roots and its true essence, its people, its values, seems much more appealing to me and a much more enjoyable reading experience.
    So while I usually don’t go for this type of book, I wouldn’t leave it out of my TBR for good.
    A lovely review, Trang! The fact that it’s so personal to you made it sound even more special 🙂


    • Yeah me too having read other stories about wars and politics, I can def confirm that it can be pretty hard and heavy LOL A book that can offer me that type of experience is worth a thousand books ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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