NGUYEN: Well, I knew that we were different as Vietnamese people really early. Part 1: VIET THANH NGUYEN: Well, when my agent told me I should write a novel, the first thing that came to me was a spy novel. So you were watching "Scooby-Doo! They sacrificed their lives in order for my brother and I to always have food, to always have clothing and to always have an education - and to have religion. So I've always stayed with it despite the minor cost that it might have entailed in terms of not seeming to be quite as American as everybody else. And I know that when I talk about these kinds of things in this context that what people are hearing in your audience is that my family and myself are examples of the American dream - we've made it, right? It's like your fictional version of "Apocalypse Now." And I had read autobiographical accounts of people who had survived these kinds of reeducation camps or reeducation experiences. And what happened was - through their personal connections, they started to send the signal out that California was a good place to live. Posted on November 23, 2020 | NGUYEN: I think I stayed with two families, if I remember right. Leave a comment, Viet Thanh Nguyen speaks with Jay Kang about ethnic studies,…(read more), Posted on August 3, 2020 | GROSS: Were you afraid in the store after that? So after - what? GROSS: Do you see your novel "The Sympathizer" in part as an answer to that, as an alternative way of seeing the war, a way of seeing it through Vietnamese eyes as opposed to through American eyes? He was a white guy. And there are so many Asian immigrants and refugees who have come from countries like the Philippines, Korea, Laos, Cambodia who are here in the United States because of wars that the U.S. waged overseas. And I had that option when I - when we became citizens, to change my name. NGUYEN: Yeah, and this is one of the things that people have a hard time getting their minds around. I wanted to write it with a first audience of other Vietnamese people. My parents would not return to a unified Vietnam until the early 1990s, which meant my father didn't see his own relatives for 40 years. GROSS: (Laughter) So let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. And these children, a lot of them joined gangs. Site design by Yoshiko Ogino & Eri Likas. It was a country that was corrupted by American aid, and people brought those habits of corruption and brutal competition with them to the U.S. And they also brought the memories of Vietnamese people killing other Vietnamese people to the United States. Thanks to Creative Capital & the Warhol Foundation for a grant to start this site. GROSS: Viet Thanh Nguyen won this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel "The Sympathizer." I think that's been my parents' attitude towards many issues. And I think that was the first indication, also, that I had that there was something called this war and that this was how Americans saw this war as one that had divided them. NGUYEN: I don't know. It was a civil war, depending on how you look at it. And the difficulty for Americans and for these refugees and immigrants is to think about both of these kinds of things at the same time - economic opportunity domestically in the United States for some Asian immigrants and refugees, not all of them - that are made possible because of foreign wars that the United States have waged abroad. GROSS: Most people form their earliest memories at around, I think, the age of 4 - 3 or 4. And ironically, what happened was that one day, someone knocked on our door when I was 16. And for us, most of the time, it's worked out. Iowa City, Iowa 52240, (319) 338-5640 or kevin@tuesdayagency.com. But the way that it has contained the meaning of that war is to make Americans the stars of this drama and relegate the Vietnamese to the margins, even though in reality, the Vietnamese paid the heaviest price. The Vietnamese were already exploting each other. Love it or leave it. So I had a pretty good idea of what these kinds of autobiographies would look like. Transpacific Studies names an exciting new field. If you're just joining us, my guest is Viet Thanh Nguyen. And I'm sure that affected them and their children and created the conditions for violence and brutality towards each other in this - the very same community, as you said, that was created in order to protect each other. She made it to San Jose. And in many ways, I've been - I spent a lifetime trying to make sense of what that trauma has meant to me. 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