Viet Thanh Nguyen came to the United States in 1975 with his family as a refugee from Vietnam
Just more than 40 years later, he is the winner for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his debut novel The Sympathizer, reported the
Los Angeles Times
Nguyen is still getting over the shock of winning the highly prestigious and internationally recognized award.
“They say that The Sympathizer really did win the Pulitzer Prize. Unless this is some cosmic virtual reality trick. I’m stunned.”
Earlier this month, Nguyen was interviewed by Tavis Smiley on PBS. During the interview, he talked about the influence of Martin Luther King’s speech Beyond Vietnam has on him even today.
“Well, I think most Americans prefer “I Have a Dream” or they remember “I Have a Dream”. As a refugee, that’s what you’re supposed to think of too.
“But when I read Dr. King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam”, I thought this is a speech that all Americans need to read, even though it’s long and complicated and hard to listen to because it’s basically connecting the thing that happened in the United States in terms of racism and class warfare and the exploitation of poor people of color and poor white people to a racist war in Vietnam.
“So for me as a Vietnamese refugee, what that speech does is it takes us out of our sense of our own victimization, going back to this Jewish example and other examples. Everybody elects to think of their suffering as unique, but in reality, sufferings are connected.
“And if we want to overcome these histories of exploitation and warfare and so on, we can’t think of our own suffering. We have to be able to connect it to other people and that’s what I think Dr. King was trying to do in that speech, and it’s such a difficult reality for people to hear.”
Nguyen’s latest book is a work of non-fiction, Nothing Ever Dies which is described as a book on war, memory and identity.
Nguyen is currently a professor at the University of Southern California and a critic at large for the Los Angeles Times.
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