The Refugees|Viet Thanh Nguyen


From the author of The Sympathizer, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Refugees is the second piece of fiction from a powerful voice in American letters, praised as "beautiful and heartrending" (Joyce Carol Oates, New Yorker), "terrific" (Chicago Tribune), and "an important and incisive book" (Washington Post).

Published in hardcover to astounding acclaim, The Refugees is the remarkable debut collection of short stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Sympathizer. In these powerful stories, written over a period of twenty years and set in both Vietnam and America, Nguyen paints a vivid portrait of the experiences of people leading lives between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth.

With the same incisiveness as in The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to the hopes and expectations of people making life-changing decisions to leave one country for another, and the rifts in identity, loyalties, romantic relationships, and family that accompany relocation. 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 are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of migration.

The second work of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.


  • ISBN-13: 9780802127365
  • ISBN-10: 0802127363
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • Publish Date: January 2018
  • Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.55 pounds
  • Page Count: 224

Book clubs: Almost famous

The Strays, Emily Bitto’s hypnotic debut novel, is the story of four girlfriends who come of age in 1930s Australia. Sisters Eva, Beatrice and Heloise are the daughters of controversial painter Evan Trentham. Their new friend, Lily, is in awe of the family. She’s bewitched by the artists who inhabit the Trenthams’ circle, their cultured ways and their communal approach to life in the face of straitlaced Australian society. Longing to join the Trentham clan, Lily becomes close to Eva, who possesses a sophistication beyond her teenage years, and the two hover on the margins of the grownups’ world, smoking, drinking and learning more than they should about the habits of artists. But the more time Lily spends with the family, the more she comes to realize that the freewheeling bohemian facade they display hides a world of trouble. Bitto explores friendship, family and the nature of creativity in this remarkably assured first novel. Filled with a luminous sense of yearning and loss, it’s a compelling snapshot of a bygone era.

Legendary journalist and author Joan Didion shares new material from notebooks she kept in the 1970s in South and West: From a Notebook. One section is drawn from a journal documenting a 1970 trip the author made with John Gregory Dunne, her late husband, through Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, and features Didion’s interviews with regional notables, including author Walker Percy. It captures the unsettled tenor of the times, with insights on race and history that will strike a chord with readers. This is classic Didion, and her sly observations are enlivened by her wonderfully sensitive intelligence. The book also includes a section of Didion’s reflections on her home state of California and the 1976 trial of Patty Hearst. Didion’s many fans will find much to enjoy in this work from one of our most inimitable authors.

Acclaimed author Viet Thanh Nguyen follows up his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer (2015), with an electrifying collection of short stories. In The Refugees, Nguyen uses the Vietnamese enclaves of California as the backdrop for narratives that examine the nature of the émigré experience. The narrator of “Black-Eyed Woman” encounters the ghost of her brother, who died while attempting to rescue her from pirates during an escape from the Vietcong. In “The Other Man,” Liem, newly arrived in America, is stunned to learn that his new roommates are gay. “The War Years” is the chronicle of a clan of Vietnamese merchants who are pressured by a group of fellow refugees into giving money to support dissidents fighting in Vietnam. As a whole, this beautifully executed collection serves as a powerful consideration of the meaning of home and the importance of human connection. In probing the lives and circumstances of Vietnamese-Americans, Nguyen has produced stories that will resonate with a wide range of readers, regardless of background.


This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.