Spotlight: Việt Kiều Authors
You don’t need to know Vietnamese to read these stories.
If you’re a fan of novels, poetry, short stories, and similar publications, check out this list of Vietnamese authors abroad. These individuals, utilizing their personal narratives and experience growing up abroad, became some of the most prominent authors and editors through their writing. You can read more about each other and check out some of the works that they have published below.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Vietnamese: Nguyễn Thanh Việt
Born in Buôn Ma Thuột, Viet Nam, Viet Thanh Nguyen is a writer most well-known for his Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer and his more recent work of The Refugees. He is currently an English and American Studies professor at the University of Southern California.
Recommended Work: The Sympathizer
Published in 2015, Nguyễn’s The Sympathizer explores multiple forms of dual identity portrayed by the antagonist. Not only is he a half-French, half-Vietnamese man, the scene begins with the antagonist integrating himself as a northern Vietnamese spy into the southern Vietnamese army. Nguyễn explores these perspectives, and tells a “layered immigrant tale told in the … voice of a “man of two minds” – and two countries” as described by the Pulitzer Committee.
Vietnamese: Vương Quốc Vinh
Ocean Vuong is a poet and currently an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s MFA program for Poets and Writers. He immigrated to the US from Vietnam in 1990, and his family settled in Connecticut. The first in his family to be able to read, he attended Brooklyn College, and later NYU. He is a recipient of the MacArthur grant.
Recommended Work: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Ocean Vuong’s novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, surrounds a narrator in his twenties writing letters to his mother. This novel highlights the dynamic between the first and second generation immigrant family and explores the emotions and relationships between the different generations.
Vietnamese: Bùi Fung Thi
Thi Bui immigrated to the United States from Vietnam with her parents in 1978. She taught high school in New York City and was a founding teacher of Oakland International High School, the first public high school in California for new immigrants and English learners. She is currently a professor at the California College of Arts’ MFA in Comics program.
Recommended Work: The Best We Could Do
The Best We Could Do is a 2017 illustrated memoir that describes Bui’s refugee experience, and its impact on her parents, herself, and her children. Bui’s story is of universal struggle: first-time parent, endless sacrifices, and unspoken love.
Vietnamese: Trần Gia Bảo
GB Tran is a California based graphic designer and professor at the California College of the Arts. He was born and raised in South Carolina in 1976, and has worked as a graphic designer in both freelance and salaried roles. He is best known for his 2011 book, Vietnamerica.
Recommended Work: Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey
Vietnamerica is GB Tran’s illustration of his journey and lack of awareness of his family’s history. The stories follow his discovery of a murky family history, revealing secrets and stories of untold refugee experiences.
Vietnamese: Phí Bảo
Bao Phi spoken word artist and community activist currently living in Minneapolis, MN. He began his career in 1991, and has since then achieved the title of two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion, and National Poetry Slam finalist. His debut work Sông I Sing was published in 2011.
Recommended Work: Sông I Sing
Sông I Sing is a collection of poems where Phi tackles being Asian-American unabashedly. He focuses on what it means to both an immigrant and a minority in America. In the words of the book’s overview: When it feels like no one, lets you live, at your own volume, You sing.
Vi Khi Nao
Vi Khi Nao is an author and poet whose work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She has an MFA from Brown University in fiction, and has won various awards including FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize in 2016, John Hakes and Feldman Prizes in fiction, and the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award in poetry.
Recommended Work: Sheep Machine
Sheep Machine is an ekphrasis exploration of Leslie Thorton’s Sheet Machine video (2011). This book transforms each second of the original film of sheep grazing in the Swiss Alps as cable cars ascend in the background into poetry.
Andrew X. Pham
Vietnamese: Phạm Andrew
Andrew Pham is a memoirist, journalists, and engineer. He was previously an aircraft engineer before transitioning to becoming a writer, food critic, and journalist. His books have won the Kiriyama Prize, Whiting Writers’ Award, and have been nominated by National Book Critics Circle Award.
Recommended Work: The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars
A story of three wars, this is Pham’s retelling of how the major 20th century conflicts of Vietnam (the French occupation, the Japanese invasion, and the Vietnam War) affected his father. This book portrays the chaos and turmoil of that era.
Vietnamese: Lê Nam
Nam Le is a Vietnamese-born Australian writer who worked as a corporate lawyer and was admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria around 2003. Le is most popularized by his 2008 book of short stories, The Boat.
Recommended Work: The Boat
The Boat is a compilation of 7 short stories spanning across 7 decades of time. From the slums of Colombia to the streets to Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City, Le articulates moments of time to convey deep emotions and historical events.
Our last spotlight is diaCRITICS, a blog that highlights creative work by members of the Southeast Asian diaspora. It is a project for the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network that began in 2010, and its founding editor and publisher is Viet Thanh Nguyen. For those that are interested in following other works and art of the Vietnamese diaspora, please explore this blog for more content of that nature.
Andrew X. Pham, writer, author, Catfish and Mandada, VONA Faculty. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.baanaomjai.com/axp.
diaCRITICS. (2019, October 30). Retrieved from https://diacritics.org/.
I AM VIETNAMESE PROJECT. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://iamvietnamese.org/.
Interview with Andrew X. Pham: “Words Belong to Everyone”. (2018, October 15). Retrieved from https://diacritics.org/2013/05/andrew-x-pham-words-belong-to-everyone/.
Many Bridges, One River: Organizing for Justice in Vietnamese American Communities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aasc.ucla.edu/aascpress/books/manybridges.aspx.
Nam Le – The Boat: The Official Website. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.namleonline.com/index.html.
Ocean Vuong. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.oceanvuong.com/.
Phi, B. (n.d.). BAO PHI. Retrieved from https://baophi.com/.
Thi Bui, Cartoonist. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.thibui.com/.
Tran, G. B. (n.d.). GB Tran. Retrieved from https://gbtran.com/index.html.
Vi Khi Nao. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vikhinao.com/.
Viet Thanh Nguyen. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://vietnguyen.info/.