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The Refugees

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  17,119 ratings  ·  2,023 reviews
From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories ...more
Hardcover, 209 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Grove Press
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Viet Nguyen It was "I'd Love You To Want Me" in an early draft. The final title is "The Refugees."…moreIt was "I'd Love You To Want Me" in an early draft. The final title is "The Refugees."(less)

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Emily May
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read a lot of books in 2017 about the refugee and/or immigrant experience - What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Exit West, Pachinko, The Leavers - and none of them felt as dry as this book. To say this is supposed to be one of the best books of last year, I was disappointed.

Nguyen tries to do with this what Arimah did with What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, except with Vietnamese immigrants instead of Nigerian. The book contains a number of stories all relating to Vietnam an
Larry H
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In trying to express how I felt about Viet Thanh Nguyen's exquisite new story collection, The Refugees , I decided to turn to one of the foremost philosophers of our age, Keanu Reeves.

The issue of immigration is definitely a hot button here in the United States right now, with intense emotional fervor expressed by individuals on both sides. Luckily, Nguyen doesn't stake out a political position in his collection. Instead, these beautifully written stories look at issues that affec
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After a spate of so so books, The Refugees reminded me of what makes me love a work of fiction: excellent writing, creative story telling, and complex human emotions. The Refugees is a slim book of short stories, but it really hit the mark. For the most part, the common thread between the stories is the experience of Vietnamese refugees who have moved to the US. Many stories focus on complex parent-child dynamics or dynamics within couples. Many characters have memories of the extraordinary leng ...more
J.L.   Sutton
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Viet Thanh Nguyen's 8-story collection in The Refugees focuses on Vietnamese refugees in complex, interesting and sometimes surprising ways. What's clear is that the immigrant experience is as unique as each individual. As characters move between families, cultures and identities, the pull of what's left behind or forgotten shapes them as much as experiences in their new culture. Memory thus plays a large role in the stories, no more so than in "I'd Love You to Want Me." In this story, a wife de ...more
Diane S ☔
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love short stories. They seem to be incredibly difficult to write, to put everything in just a few pages and connect to the reader as well. Done well, I find them incredible and that was one of the first things I noticed when I started reading this collection, the writing is fantastic. Excellent writing itself makes me want to trust the writer, puts me at ease, surely he knows what he is doing, he writes so well? Then the content, the situations presented have to draw one in, present a complet ...more
Angela M

I haven't read this author's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer, so I was glad to have the opportunity to read this short volume of stories to get a feel for his writing and now I will for sure read it. The author immediately with captivating writing invites you to meet not just the characters in the present, but we learn about their pasts as well . We meet the ghosts, their families, the culture, the country of of their birth - Vietnam , and inevitably the undercurrent of the war's
Poster-child short stories!

4.8 stars

You’ll hear lots of reviewers gushing about this collection of stories. Believe them. In fact, I won’t start slinging around glowing adjectives myself because there’s a traffic jam—there are so many ohs and ahs on the road, I don’t need to add to the verbal carbon imprint. Why bore you with the same old story? Once you’ve heard this book gem is shiny bright, you don’t need to hear everyone in the world repeat glowing words about its glowing existence. Let me j
"I am a refugee, an American, and a human being, which is important to proclaim, as there are many who think these identities cannot be reconciled." – Viet Thanh Nguyen

The above quote comes from an essay included at the end of this collection of eight short stories by the author of The Sympathizer, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I haven’t read his full length novel yet, but have intended to ever since I first saw it appear on my Goodreads news feed. I am even more inclined to do so now, af

Following up his 2015 novel, The Sympathizer which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Viet Thanh Nguyen has gathered together a collection of his short stories for The Refugees.

Nguyen quotes from two sources in his Preface, Roberto Bolano’s introduction to Antwerp

"I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they're outside of time, are the only ones with time."

And a small piece of James Fenton’s poem A German Requiem

”It is not your memories which haunt you. It is
Elyse  Walters
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner of "The Sympathizer",
has written a collection of short stories -- 8 total in "The Refugees".
Viet says:
"I wrote this book for ghosts, who, because they're outside of time, are the only ones with time". This quote makes more sense the deeper you dive into each story. Viet is not talking 'voodoo'.... or scary ghosts. He knows about immigration first hand. He was born in Viet Nam, then came to the United States as a refugee in 1975 with his family.
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
My first foray into the short story land and it was quite captivating right from the start when the writer meets his ghost brother.
This is a story of refugees. Their ghosts who have been kept alive until their stories have been told. Their struggles coming to America and the challenges they faced; as well as their return trips back to the homeland where memories and reality are no longer congruent.
The series of vignettes are profound. The writing, descriptively vivid. 4****. Missed the 5er bec
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Short story enthusiasts, Southeast Asian fiction readers
Viet Thanh Nguyen's short story collection The Refugees is very strong, smart, and affecting, centered on the Vietnamese experience but shifting between characters and perspectives to interact with the nation's history, people, and culture in fresh and surprising ways: a Vietnamese man reeling from his divorce and attempting to close a gap with his distant, disapproving father; a former American military man visiting his daughter in the country he fought in; a girl in her family living in mo ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book of short stories about Vietnamese refugees and their lives here in America, and some parts taking place in Vietnam.

This was both dark, and sometimes funny, and all of them about love and family.

My favorite was "I'd love you to want me", but they were all very good.

Thank you to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic, and Viet Thanh Nguyen for the ARC.
This is such an exciting time in American literature that we can enjoy the gorgeous language and careful craftsmanship of really very fine short stories and novels in English in the American tradition but from traditionally silent participants in our nation’s pageant: immigrants and people of color. These voices began speaking up some time ago, but if you looked at the award lists until recently, people of color weren’t often on them. That has changed, and right now, before cultures become indis ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Confession: my knowledge of the Vietnam war is somewhat muddy and confused, most of it sourced from American movies, and a few Australian ones, and we all know how one sided they are.

The Refugees is a collection of eight short stories made cohesive by the fact the protagonists in all of them are Vietnamese refugees and their immediate families.

The stories are diverse and extremely powerful. The writing is simple, but not simplistic. It's economical, without fancy language flourishes, yet it pac
Iris P
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Iris P by: Esil
The Refugees

 photo 1nguyen_zpsvagqvlqd.jpg Viet Thanh Nguyen - The Author

★★★★ 4 Stars

I received a free advance e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

"You have to understand, no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land."
From the poem "Home" by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire

Reading this highly gratifying collection of stories felt incredibly auspicious, although not necessarily in a go
I’m making a concentrated effort to read Vietnamese writers because I’m Vietnamese and want to get in touch with that part of my identity, so that in large part is what motivated me to pick up The Refugees. Overall, the collection did not disappoint. The stories, while definitely focused on the lives of Vietnamese refugees, mostly living in California, also revolved around common life experiences: falling in and out of love, disappointing your parents, the period of life when your child takes ca ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I fell in love with Viet Thanh Nguyen way of storytelling with his 2016 Pulitzer winning debut novel, The Sympathizer. You bet I wanted more, and that led to Refugees, a collection of eight Viet Thanh Nguyen's short stories which he originally published between 2006 and 2011, with Vietnam's displaced citizens taking center stage in most of the stories.

❝ She wondered what, if anything, she knew about love. Not much, perhaps, but enough to know that what she would do for him now she would
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
“A short story, she thought, would be just long enough.”

After seeing the author's name almost daily on my copy of The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui - which he blurbed - I finally decided to give his writing a go with this collection of short stories.

From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Min
Glenn Sumi
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I have yet to read Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, but after this solid collection of stories, I’m looking forward to it [UPDATED: I did eventually read it, and liked this story collection more! See my review here.]

With the European refugee/migrant crisis raging and the Trump administration tightening admissions of refugees to the U.S., a book with the title The Refugees couldn’t be timelier.

Nguyen himself came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975, an
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Impressive collection of short stories focused on Vietnamese refugees and their experiences. Very well written and all of the stories are very different from each other, which made it even more interesting. I appreciated this collection and enjoyed reading the stories but it didn't really give me any warm fuzzies or hug at my heartstrings - not that kind of a book, at least for me.

Thanks for NetGalley and Grove Press for an ARC of this collection.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“I wrote this book for the ghosts, who, because they are outside of time, are the only one with time.” – prologue

What a timely book! With the public debate about immigration in the forefront of everyone’s mind, with the executive and judicial branches of government battling out the legality of banning people from certain countries, the timing is perfect! America’s history has been built upon accepting refugees from various countries. Between 1975 and 1995 over 480,000 people had immigrated to th
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, literature
This book is a series of eight short stories. They are stories of pain, loss and memories. These are fictional stories of Vietnamese refugees in the US and how they adjusted, or not, to life in another country. One family sees ghosts and talks about what ifs: "If we hadn't had a war," she said that night, her wistfulness drawing me closer, "we'd be like the Koreans now. Saigon would be Seoul, your father alive, you married with children, me a retired housewife, not a manicurist."

"We would come o
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley

I am not a fan of short stories. About the time I get invested in the characters the story ends. And it's so hard for much to happen in such a short number of pages. Like looking at a photo instead of a video. That said, I had enjoyed The Sympathizer and jumped at a chance to get an advance copy of this book. The writing here is good and you get a real feel for time, place and person. The stories cover the various aspects of assimilation of the refugees into American life. These are not happy st
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Refugees is by Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, a book that won many awards. This collection is a very fine group of short stories, which are tender and moving. In the first story, a woman who is a ghost writer for other authors is haunted by her own ghost-her dead brother who has returned, lost, to seek out answers. The answers to his questions, and her pain, lie in their long-ago flight from Vietnam.

All the stories deal in some way with the characters complicated relationship
The characters in Nguyen’s semi-autobiographical short story collection are torn between Vietnam and America. The trauma of history and the uncertainty of their Asian-American identity continue to have effects even decades later. Escape from Vietnam, sometimes by boat, is a distant memory for some of the characters. Several stories have characters visiting present-day Vietnam as tourists, or returning for the first time in decades. The first and last tales in the collection are my favorites. The ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
I was very fortunate to win a copy of Viet Thanh Nguyen's debut, Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Sympathizer last year and was quite impressed and so looked forward to reading his second book, a collection of eight short stories, with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. It takes considerable skills to fashion an interesting story with believable characters in just a few succinct pages and this author does it well.

The author dedicates his book 'For all refuges, everywhere.' And what a ho
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm clearly the odd one out here, so take this review with a huge grain of salt (and be sure to read other reviews if you're considering this book). I never read The Sympathizer, so I'm not sure if I just don't click with this author's style, or if I just didn't click with this book. Instead of being moved (or even) caring about the characters in the stories contained in this collection I found my brain wandering and surprised at how long it was taking me to read such a short book. It could also ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I would have liked a little more distance between reading both The Sympathizer and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War in the fall before digging into these stories, but with a review copy, I don't always have a choice with expiration dates looming.

There are some shared themes with his other two works - refugees who are never fully residents of another place, because of their memories, their losses, and their journeys of displacement. These topics I expected. What impressed me was t
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
It can be difficult within the span of a short story to tell a complete story with fully formed characters but this collection of short stories does that, showcasing a series of snapshots of Vietnamese refugees who have settled in America. The stories concentrate on families, those torn apart by the war and those struggling to live between the past and the present. The writing is simple but powerful and sometimes poignant as in one story where a woman caring for her husband with dementia has to ...more
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Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of the novel The Sympathizer (Grove Press, 2015). He also authored Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002) and co-edited Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (University of Hawaii Press, 2014). An associate professor at the University of Southern California, he teaches in the departments of English and ...more

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