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Short Girls

3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  784 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
A mesmerizing novel about estranged sisters and the cultural and family history that binds them Van and Linny Luong are as baffling to each other as their parents' Vietnamese legacy is to them both. Van, the quintessential overachiever, has applied the same studied diligence to her law career and marriage-a beau idal that vaporized when Mr. Right walked out. Linny-pretty, ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published July 23rd 2009 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Apr 06, 2013 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know those of you, my Goodreads friends, who have actually met me are now laughing and thinking, "Okay, not only does she choose books because the author happens to share her name, but she also must choose books because the title describes her stature -- or rather, her lack thereof." And you are so right -- that is exactly why I picked this book up! However, it didn't disappoint me.

This is a story of sisters (I have none, so the dynamic always interests me) and of the immigrant experience. Va
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really don't know what made me check out this book from the library. Maybe it was the title, maybe it was because the whole book was white in color, maybe it was because the title seemed catchy. But after reading it, I find myself surprised at the fact that if I knew the story of the book before reading it, I would never have picked it up.

This book tells the story of two Vietnamese American girls, Linny and Van, who were both born in the USA by first-generation Vietnamese immigrant parents. Va
Jan 26, 2010 Vy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book even though I've read other Asian immigrant stories, just to hear a Vietnamese-American voice. The story is of 2 sisters, quite different in nature, who come together to help their dad celebrate his citizenship. The typical themes found in immigrant literature are here, but there isn't anything particularly remarkable about the way they are presented.

Especially at the beginning, the story is mired in an excess of minute details. Even if you happen to be Vietnamese and
May 09, 2016 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
It's always a nice experience as someone in the Asian diaspora to read books by (and about) other members of the Asian diaspora, but this particular story was so relatable. Not just for the diaspora aspect, but also the who-the-crap-have-I-turned-into perspective as well.

It was a rather surreal experience, seeing my relationship with my parents echoed in this story: my parents also rarely talked about their time in their home countries. My parents also belonged to a tightly-knit community of peo
Esther Bradley-detally
Well boys and girls, girls and boys, a Sherlock Holmes moment overcomes me, and I'll share.

Bich Minh Nguyen is 5.0, Just. I believe. She also write Stealing Buddha's Dinner.

2 sisters - temperamental opposites, eccentric, invention-obsessed father, and a mother who died. Did I mention "this is a view of a time warp of a childhood home unaltered since their mother's death and insulated by the same Vietnamese American commuinty they grew up with." (blurb on inside cover) So it's about pitfalls, fun
Enrique Mañas
"Short Girls" is a journey through the eyes of second-generation Vietnamese girls born in the US and struggling with their identity. Van and Linny could not be so different - the former in a failed marriage, the second engaged in a dead-end affair with a married man - yet they are going through the same travel and insecurities. If you happen to be Vietnamese and being grown in an American suburb you will find many of the details and references familiar, yet they are a bit confusing for the profa ...more
Aug 26, 2009 Venessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great novel about two sisters who were never close to begin with, but find during their own moments of crisis they have only each other to turn to. Told in alternating points of view, Nguyen masters each of their voices. We see the same events happen in two different perspectives, a reminder that this is the case in life often: there is more than one side to every story. Their father, who understands each of them about as much as they understand each other (ie, not at all) is who brings them t ...more
For immigration lawyer Van, life takes a spin after her husband announces unceremoniously, “I don’t want to live with you anymore.” She’s spent a long time feeling settled, comfortable and, in her words, “chosen” by Miles Oh, a successful, charismatic and handsome Asian-American who exudes a confidence and poise that Van herself has never felt. Losing him, as she does on page one, is like losing a limb.

Off in Chicago, Van’s younger sister Linny Luong has troubles of her own — namely the clandest
Mar 26, 2010 Serena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bich Minh Nguyen's Short Girls is a story of Vietnamese, second-generation immigrants Linny and Van Luong and their family. Their father, a loner and inventor, holding them at arms length, and their familial history is obscured by stories and silence. The story is broken into alternating chapters about each young woman, though written in a point of view that is more like an observer with each woman's inner thoughts are revealed -- much of this complaints or observations about how different they ...more
Kesia Alexandra
Jun 29, 2014 Kesia Alexandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Short Girls” at it’s surface is a story about two Vietnamese American sisters, specifically their relationships with men and with their family. I had not picked the book up with the intention to relate to it in any way. I don’t necessarily read to relate, I read to be entertained. But I was impressed with how many aspects of the novel rang true in my own life as someone with parents who were born in other countries and had to learn to navigate America in a way I generally take for granted.
Jul 27, 2015 Bookworm rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So much potential, not a good enough execution. Even though I didn't really care for the author's 'Pioneer Girl' I was curious about this book. At first I really liked the story of two grown sisters who live in the US Midwest and navigate being first-generation children of Vietnamese immigrants who fled the Vietnam War. Each Linny and Van have their own issues with where they are in life, their romantic adventures, how they related to each other, as well as their father, whose story is presumabl ...more
Jul 18, 2010 Zelda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nguyen explores the alienation of the Asian-American woman simultaneously weaving in stories of marriage and failure and loss. You know, your standard fun summer reading. All of the characters have a victim complex even though they are all perfectly capable of success. They are all brought down by such insurmountable and cruel obstacles as sovereign nations wanting to maintain secure borders and being short - which wouldn't be a problem if white folk didn't cruelly insist on being so darned tall ...more
Aug 26, 2013 Mel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read the blurb on the back of this book, it sounded interesting. I like stories about immigrants. So, when I started reading it, I had high hopes.

The story started off well enough. I enjoyed the interplay between the parents and their daughters. But, somewhere about 50 pages in it got bogged down with Van's relationship with Myles. It got too much into the history of both girls and their relationships, so much so that it interfered with the story. Their problems were established pretty ea
Linda C.
Oct 17, 2010 Linda C. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book slipped in. Sometimes that happens. I don't necessarily have to be in a bookstore where I fight the urge to actually buy a book. This time I made a quick stop at the free library at the clubhouse. It works on the take a book, leave a book premise. I found Short Girls in the drop off bin.

I've had the pleasure of traveling to Vietnam and I have some very good Vietnamese friends. I love their food, their culture, their stories. This book sounded interesting. I'm also bogged down in an ep
Sean 韓谷陳H (HTCH)
book talks about a lot of things relevant to asian americans (it will depend , of course, on your gender/sex/specific combination of asian american). in my case i'm a 4th-gen jp am, 2.5/3-gen taiwanese-am, and irish (but not at all white-passing)

for one, height - shortness - how this can impact immigrants adjusting to the more tall-supremacy-focused america - looked at through the father character and the two daughters.

it also addresses problematic aspects of chinese-american masculinity that i
Oct 13, 2009 Clare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives a good picture of what it is like to be a young woman in a family that has emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam.

Lack of communication is at the heart of this book. Two sisters and their father circle around one another, briefly touching but never stopping long enough to sit down and really talk. They each deal alone with their heartbreaks and fears.

The characters are beautifully described: the immigrant father who believes that he will finally strike it rich with his inventions,
Sep 04, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Stealing Buddha's Dinner a few months ago, and really enjoyed the lushness of Nguyen's writing on childhood, food envy, the immigrant experience- one of my favorite topics. I read Short Girls in one sitting, not because the storyline or the writing necessitated it! But more so because the writing felt so easy to be with, not heavy-handed. Also I felt like I knew so much of what she was talking about, especially the Asian once-over. I think that quality made the book a solid read- I felt l ...more
Jan 03, 2010 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far I am really enjoying this book. The book is set primarily in the Greater Grand Rapids area, although at times the geographical references are way off. It is an interesting read about two sisters, who are first generation Americans. It delves into the culture of the Vietnamese families as they struggle with their lives in America, specifically the midwest.

As a person from Grand Rapids, I really struggled with some of the geographical references. I think that if you are going to make the l
From the review on my blog

The title of the book called my attention at the Singapore Library. This book by Bich Nguyen is about a Vietnamese family in the US. Identity crisis, US-born Vietnamese and along with the petite status tag along.

Sisters, Van and Linny Luong are day and night. Van is the studious one – married and living a dream till her husband decides to walk away. Linny drops out of college and is in a relationship with a married man. Their liv
Jan 09, 2010 Nate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a nice read: upbeat, honest, contemporary, not too serious. "Short Girls" revolves around the relationship between two 2nd generation Vietnamese-American sisters in their 20s (I would stop short of calling this chick-lit, but beware the love-lives of the two sisters are central). The story zig-zags between the POV of the sisters in a tag-team narration that stays on a linear course. I would probably try to sneak this into the beach reading of someone that I thought could use some hearti ...more
I picked this up because I was interested in how Nguyen would make the transition from a memoir to a novel. Unfortunately, this book was just as unimpressive as "Stealing Buddha's Dinner." The book did start to pick up near the end, where I actually started caring about the characters, even if they were flat and two-dimensional, but there's very little action in this book. I was hoping for more, instead of long, drawn out explanations for things that the average reader would understand. It suffe ...more
I borrowed this book from the local library thinking it would be a thoughtful and insightful read. It was, but not by much. The story lingers and doesn't pick up at any point in the book. The intertwining plot lines between Van and Linny unfolded without suspense. Almost, predictably. The back story with their parents seemed too contrived and artificial.

I easily can see why this book may have gotten mixed reviews. But from one first generation Asian-American reader -- it seemed to try to hard to
Dora Okeyo
I didn't enjoy reading this book and found myself skipping many pages at first.
So when I gave it a second chance-all I could figure out was there was no communication between two sisters Van and Linny who are the main characters. It just didn't seem to flow and I was disappointed.
I did relate to the fact that dreams can change when people grow up and nothing is picture perfect really- but other than that I could say I was almost depressed and moody reading this novel.
The dialogues are strained b
Bookmarks Magazine
Family squabbles and generational conflicts are common themes in Asian American literature. However, most critics felt Nguyen's sense of place (she grew up in Michigan and knows her terrain), as well as her ability to keep the story moving forward even as the narrative hopscotched through time, elevated the work. Several critics noted the novelty of reading about Asian Americans living outside San Francisco or New York. Still, some reviewers felt that everyday details at times bogged down the na ...more
Ann Rufo
Short Girls juxtaposes two Vietnamese sisters experiencing turmoil in their home lives as they come together to celebrate their father's citizenship ceremony. Presented initially, and in their own minds, as opposites who have no real relationship with each other, the sisters, as they move through their own personal crises reveal themselves as surprisingly similar and inherently connected by their family and culture. The play between them is well contrasted and each story well developed, though a ...more
May 12, 2015 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I randomly picked it up while searching for a nearby book. Two American-born Vietnamese sisters have grown apart over the years. Linny is fun and fashionable and flirty. Van is studious and plain and boring. There is a real lack of character development throughout the novel. Linny is unhappy for these three reasons. Van is unhappy for these three reasons. Their father is crazy for these three reasons. And only those reasons! The same points just keeps getting regurgitated with no depth. I also c ...more
Cindy S
Dec 28, 2009 Cindy S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two sisters tell their experience of growing up and living as first generation daughters of immigrants. The chapters alternate between their points of view. They are "short girls" - vietnamese heredity. One sister plunges into American society, trying to fit in while the other one follows the path of proper Asian daughter - quiet, diligent, excels scholastically. Their father figures prominently in the story but that is only told thru the daughters. It would have been interesting to have a third ...more
Beth Withers
Van and Linny are sisters whose parents have immigrated from Vietnam to Michigan. The novel alternates between the stories of the two sisters. Both have relationship issues of different sorts and problems that might show up in any novel. Within the plot, however, is a theme about acceptance and what it means to be American, along with the theme of family relationships. While I enjoyed the novel, I did find it tedious after a while. I was hoping for more introspection about being the children of ...more
Nov 22, 2009 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great, fantastic read. I started it at 9PM last night with the intent of reading the first few chapters before falling asleep. It didn't happen that way. I ended up staying up until 1:30AM to finish the book. There was so much character development that I wanted to see how Van and Linny (sisters - the characters the book is focused on) deal with obstacles in their lives . . . and their father, Dinh Luong an eccentric self-proclaimed inventor.

I can say that BMN did an authentically wonderful job
Aug 07, 2009 Nancy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
A masterpiece of telling and not showing. I felt incredibly removed from the characters, the plot, all of it--and it's not a lack of immigrant experience or whatever, I've read plenty of books that have nothing to do with my life that have engaged me. They just seemed so thin, so nothing. There would be two sentences of something good and then the author would undermine it or ignore it.

Reviews elsewhere have been pretty good, overall, so it might just be that I'm missing this.

This was a gift fro
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Bich Minh Nguyen received the PEN/Jerard Award for her memoir Stealing Buddhas Dinner, which was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2007 and a BookSense pick. It was also selected as The Great Michigan Read for 2009-2010. Bich has appeared on programs such as The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. She lives in Chicago and Indiana, where she teaches literature and creative writing at Purdue University.
More about Bich Minh Nguyen...

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