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The Sympathizer
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by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Goodreads Author)
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Orwell in Tribune...
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What Happened
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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Sympathizer
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Sarah Dessen
“So what's your doll's name?" Boo asked me.
"Barbie," I said. "All their names are Barbie."
"I see," she said. "Well, I'd think that would get boring, everyone having the same
I thought about this, then said, "Okay, then her name is Sabrina."

"Well, that's a very nice name," Boo said. I remember she was baking bread,
kneading the dough
between her thick fingers. "What does she do?"
"Do?" I said.
"Yes." She flipped the dough over and started in on it from the other side. "What
does she do?"
"She goes out with Ken," I said.
"And what else?"
"She goes to parties," I said slowly. "And shopping."
"Oh," Boo said, nodding.
"She can't work?"
"She doesn't have to work," I said.
"Why not?"
"Because she's Barbie."
"I hate to tell you, Caitlin, but somebody has to make payments on that town house
and the Corvette,"
Boo said cheerfully. "Unless Barbie has a lot of family money."
I considered this while I put on Ken's pants.
Boo started pushing the dough into a pan, smoothing it with her hand over the top.
"You know what I
think, Caitlin?" Her voice was soft and nice, the way she always spoke to me.
"I think your Barbie can go shopping, and go out with Ken, and also have a
productive and satisfying
career of her own." She opened the oven and slid in the bread pan, adjusting its
position on the rack.
"But what can she do?" My mother didn't work and spent her time cleaning the
house and going to PTA.
I couldn't imagine Barbie, whose most casual outfit had sequins and go-go boots,
doing s.uch things.
Boo came over and plopped right down beside me. I always remember
her being on my level; she'd sit
on the edge of the sandbox, or lie across her bed with me and Cass as we listened to
the radio.
"Well," she said thoughtfully, picking up Ken and examining his perfect physique.
"What do you want to
do when you grow up?"
I remember this moment so well; I can still see Boo sitting there on the floor, cross-
legged, holding my

Ken and watching my face as she tried to make me see that between my mother's
PTA and Boo's
strange ways there was a middle ground that began here with my Barbie, Sab-rina,
and led right to me.
"Well," I said abruptly, "I want to be in advertising." I have no idea where this came
"Advertising," Boo repeated, nodding. "Okay. Advertising it is. So Sabrina has to go
to work every day,
coming up with ideas for commercials
and things like that."
"She works in an office," I went on. "Sometimes she has to work late."
"Sure she does," Boo said. "It's hard to get ahead. Even if you're Barbie."
"Because she wants to get promoted," I added. "So she can pay off the town house.
And the Corvette."
"Very responsible of her," Boo said.
"Can she be divorced?" I asked. "And famous for her commercials
and ideas?"
"She can be anything," Boo told me, and this is what I remember most, her freckled
face so solemn, as if
she knew she was the first to tell me. "And so can you.”
Sarah Dessen, Dreamland

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