Nguyen has also been serving as the cultural critic at large for the Los Angeles Times, writing about literature and politics through a biting radical lens (which is refreshing when the literary world tends to be rather bland and liberal, even in these dark times of Trump).
For someone who has had his pulse on American cultural and political life, it is both fortuitous and fitting that Nguyen's new short story collection entitled The Refugees, dedicated to "all refugees,"is being released in the shadow of Trump's draconian ban on refugees from seven Muslim countries.
As with The Sympathizer, Nguyen's writing drives the forcefulness of his stories. He writes thoughtful sentences that layer on top of each other to create both atmosphere and mood but also complexity, making the reader dig deep into the text to understand the motivations and actions of his characters. The stories he gives us are painful and somber, yet also with a touch of outlandish humour he pulled off so well in his previous novel.
As the current US Administration seeks to vilify the refugee populations that were products of American imperial adventures, Nguyen's collection is both powerful and necessary. We need to hear the painful pasts that have driven people to leave their homes and families, to understand and empathize with their experiences and appreciate the stakes they (and humanity) face if we ignore them and further marginalize them.
For this reason alone, I urge you all to pick up the book. It's a quick and easy read, yet will give you the energy to keep on struggling for the rights of refugees now and in the future.
**I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.