Vietnamese Studies

In this collection we've gathered texts by authors of Vietnamese heritage, including Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen and acclaimed poet-turned-novelist Ocean Vuong.

Publication year 2014Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Free verse, Grief / Death, Military / War, Vietnam War

Publication year 2023Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: GuiltTags Relationships, Historical Fiction, Vietnam War, Asian Literature, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 2010Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies

Bitter in the Mouth, by Monique Truong, is a contemporary work of literary fiction first published in 2010. The novel is written in a stream-of-consciousness style in which the protagonist, Linda Hammerick, recounts her experience growing up as a Vietnamese American girl with synesthesia adopted by a white family in Boiling Springs, North Carolina in the 1970s. The novel explores issues of race, gender, sexuality, family, truth, and trauma.The novel is split into two parts... Read Bitter in the Mouth Summary

Publication year 2019Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Historical Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Vietnam War, Asian Literature

Publication year 1999Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: FateTags Travel Literature

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam is a 1999 nonfiction book by Andrew X. Pham. Pham’s other books include The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars and The Theory of Flight. He is a recipient of the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Award, the Whiting Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.Plot SummaryPham, an American citizen, decides to take a cycling trip to Vietnam in a search for identity. It... Read Catfish And Mandala Summary

Publication year 2023Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Identity: Race, Society: WarTags Historical Fiction, Asian Literature, Military / War

Publication year 2014Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: SexualityTags Mythology, Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 2009Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee

I Love Yous are for White People is a memoir by Vietnamese-American Lac Su, published in 2009 by HarperCollins. This guide refers to the first US edition. The title paraphrases Pa, the author’s emotionally distant and abusive father, who rebuffs his son’s declaration of love at the age of 14. Su writes in simple prose and organizes the material chronologically, relying on the power of his experiences as a young immigrant in Los Angeles to... Read I Love Yous are For White People Summary

Publication year 2011Genre Novel/Book in Verse, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Historical Fiction, Children's Literature

The story opens in February 1975. Hà lives with her mother and three older brothers (Brother Quang, Brother Vũ, and Brother Khôi) in Saigon, South Vietnam. Hà knows her father, a naval officer, only through Mother’s stories and memories; he disappeared nine years earlier, a victim of the Communist Army of North Vietnam. Hà learns fractions, practices embroidery, and celebrates the start of the new lunar year on Tết (February 11). As spring and Hà’s... Read Inside Out And Back Again Summary

Publication year 2014Genre Poem, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Immigration / Refugee, Vietnam War

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Grandparents, Identity: Language, Self DiscoveryTags Realistic Fiction, Asian Literature, Grief / Death, Food, Immigration / Refugee

Published in 2015, Listen, Slowly is the second novel from Thanhhà Lại, a Vietnamese American author who incorporates her experience as a refugee into her work. The novel was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Book of the Year, and one of NPR’s Best Books of 2015. This middle-grade novel is the follow-up to her debut Inside Out and Back Again which won the National Book Award and Newbery... Read Listen, Slowly Summary

Publication year 1991Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: BirthTags Historical Fiction

Novel Without a Name, first published in English in 1995, tells the story of a young North Vietnamese soldier named Quan whose physical and emotional journey draws heavily from Vietnamese author Duong Thu Huong’s own life. Novel Without a Name is her third book. At the start of the novel, Quan is with his military unit, having buried six dead girls they found a couple of weeks prior. While hunting for food, one of Quan’s... Read Novel Without a Name Summary

Publication year 2019Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: GriefTags LGBTQ, Realistic Fiction

Raised by his mother, Rose, and his grandmother, Lan, Little Dog grows up in a lower working-class neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut, beginning in the early 90s. Troubled by loss and abuse, Little Dog, at age 28, decides to write a letter to his illiterate mother, using it as a method of exorcising his demons, exploring the loss and trauma that shaped his and his family’s lives, and the love and beauty that defines their lives... Read On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Summary

Publication year 1988Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Historical Fiction

Paradise of the Blind (1988) is a fictional novel written by Duong Thu Huong, a dissident Vietnamese writer and former Communist Party member who openly criticizes the disillusionment of communism through her writings. As a former Communist Youth Brigade leader, Duong was in a unique position to observe the political and social chaos of communist Vietnam. Paradise of the Blind is set against the backdrop of Land Reform, the official state-run attempt at land redistribution... Read Paradise of the Blind Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Graphic Novel/Book, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Friendship, Self Discovery, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: SiblingsTags Realistic Fiction, Bullying

Publication year 2011Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Relationships: Siblings, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Play: Drama, Play: Comedy / Satire, Fantasy, LGBTQ

Publication year 2007Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Food, Relationships: Mothers

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner is a memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen that tells the story of her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a young Vietnamese refugee. Bich’s family, made up of her father; her grandmother, Noi; her sister, Anh; and her uncles, Chu Anh, Chu Cuong, and Chu Dai; flee to the United States from Vietnam in April 1975, just as Saigon is falling to the North Vietnamese. Her mother is left behind, and the... Read Stealing Buddha's Dinner Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Graphic Novel/Book, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Birth, Society: War, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, History: Asian

The artist and writer Thi Bui published her autobiographical graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do, in 2017. Alternating her narrative between her present-day experiences as a new mother in New York City with her parents’ past growing up in and then escaping from Vietnam, Bui builds a complex web of intergenerational trauma and love. This is Bui’s first venture into comic book illustration. The artwork that accompanies her narrative is based on the black... Read The Best We Could Do Summary

Publication year 2003Genre Novel, Fiction

The Book of Salt is a 2003 novel by Monique Truong. The time period is the 1920s and 1930s and focuses on Binh, a young, gay Vietnamese cook living in French-colonized Vietnam who must flee Saigon. After spending time at sea as a cook, he lands in Paris and eventually answers an ad for a position in the household of Gertrude Stein and her lover/companion, Alice B. Toklas. The fictionalized account of the couple is... Read The Book of Salt Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Self Discovery, Identity: RaceTags Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, LGBTQ

Publication year 2003Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: Family

The Gangster We Are All Looking For, published in 2003, is a novel that takes the reader through the life of a young, unnamed girl—whom we will call “the Girl”—and her family, who have fled Vietnam in the wake of the war with America to live in San Diego, California. The book draws upon author lê thi diêm thúy’s own experience as a Vietnamese refugee in America. The story begins with the Girl leaving Vietnam... Read The Gangster We Are All Looking For Summary

Publication year 2010Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Humor, History: Asian

The Happiest Refugee is a 2010 autobiography by Vietnamese-born, Australian author, actor, comedian, and artist Anh Do. Following his journey from a perilous escape from Communist-ruled Vietnam as a toddler with his large family, to his working-class childhood in Australia where he struggled to fit into the predominantly white society, to his rise as one of Australia’s most sought-after comedians and motivational speakers, The Happiest Refugee is considered one of the most well-received stories of... Read The Happiest Refugee Summary

Publication year 2018Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Self DiscoveryTags Romance

Publication year 2020Genre Graphic Novel/Book, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Identity: SexualityTags LGBTQ, Fantasy, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Asian Literature, Auto/Biographical Fiction

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: War, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Historical Fiction, Vietnam War, Asian Literature

Publication year 2017Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Relationships: Family, Society: War, Life/Time: AgingTags Immigration / Refugee, Historical Fiction, Asian Literature, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Vietnam War

The Refugees is a 2017 collection of short stories by celebrated Vietnamese American author, Viet Thanh Nguyen. Nguyen has written fiction, academic nonfiction, and children’s books, and his novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize in 2016. Nguyen received his doctorate in English at the University of California Berkeley, and he currently is a literature professor at the University of Southern California. Nguyen’s scholarship and literary works focus on the experiences of Vietnamese communities in... Read The Refugees Summary

Publication year 1987Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Society: WarTags Military / War

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam, by Bao Ninh, was first published in Vietnam in 1991; its first English translation came in 1993. Bao was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1952. During the Vietnam War, he served with the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade. Of the 500 people who went to war with the brigade in 1969, he is one of only ten who survived. The Sorrow of War was originally published against... Read The Sorrow of War Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory

The Sympathizer is an historical spy novel told in the first-person by an unnamed half-French, half-Vietnamese narrator. The story unfolds as the narrator’s confession to a man referred to as the Commandant. The narrator begins his story with the fall of Saigon, where he is the aide-de-camp to a high-ranking General in the Special Branch, the central intelligence organization of the anti-Communist South Vietnamese Army. Quickly, we learn that the narrator is not all he appears... Read The Sympathizer Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Self Discovery, Relationships: Family, Society: Immigration, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Society: Community, Identity: Race, Identity: Sexuality, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Immigration / Refugee, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Bullying, Love / Sexuality, Grief / Death, History: Asian, Natural Disaster, Parenting, Military / War, Race / Racism, Religion / Spirituality, Relationships

Publication year 2016Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Natural World: Objects, Values/Ideas: Fate, Identity: RaceTags Lyric Poem

Publication year 2015Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Identity: Language, Identity: Race, Life/Time: The Future, Life/Time: The Past, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Friendship, Self Discovery, Society: Community, Society: Education, Society: Immigration, Society: Nation, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Music, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Trust & DoubtTags Historical Fiction, Romance, Play: Drama, Play: Comedy / Satire

Publication year 2011Genre Graphic Memoir , NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Fathers, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Society: ImmigrationTags Vietnam War, Military / War, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 1989Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: Colonialism, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags History: Asian, Vietnam War, Immigration / Refugee, Politics / Government

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: The Past, Relationships: Friendship, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Music, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Romance, Magical Realism, Drama / Tragedy, Grief / Death