But Claire had brought him back to this red earth, and he wasn’t about to run to her for help, even if he could. He drank too eagerly and water dribbled over his lip and on to his gown. Then came the deluge. With light from the high beams scattered on the raindrops falling before him, he decided that instead of ignoring them, he should raise his head in defiance. “The world isn’t a pure place.”, “All I’m saying is not to underestimate the military-industrial complex.”. It sounds strange, I don’t know how to put it but I feel like… I have a Vietnamese soul”, A few doors down the colonnade from the courtyard was Claire’s classroom, her wooden desk confronting several rows of short tables and benches. deftly sketches characters caught in the limbo of dislocation with power and grace . Even if people could afford this place, there’d be an entire family in here.”, “You’re not a native,” Carver said. “Try being a Japanese wife at a Michigan air base in 1973.”, “Try being a black man in Japan,” Carver said. Recalling a lesson from the couples therapy Michiko had Shanghaied him into, Carver counted down from ten. “You said the Department of Defense was funding your advisor’s research at MIT. “But maybe not. Carver, however, cared little for pastoral fantasies, his childhood passed in a rural Alabama hamlet siphoned clean of hope long before his birth. What am I angry about? Like a draught of horses, the two robots were harnessed side-by-side, braced front and back by iron rods. Don’t think everyone’s like you.”, “It is okay,” Vanneth said. “Not people crawling on their knees digging out mines by hand.”, “Won’t this robot put those people out of work?”, “That is not the kind of work people should do,” Legaspi said. “Look at this place.”, Claire deliberately swept her gaze over her classroom. Legaspi had returned to steering Ricky, while Claire had her arms folded across her chest, daring him to walk away, exactly as he dared her when she was six, clamouring for a blonde Barbie doll in a toy store. Why did you go walking by yourself?”, He shifted his weight on the mattress, where a lump of foam had worked its way under the small of his back. He slogged toward the blacktop, not a human being or an animal in sight, the dull green fields flanking him on either side. His new collection is The Refugees (Corsair), from which this story is taken. Vanneth started driving towards the blacktop. “At a time when paranoia about refugees and migrants has reached a new high in America and perhaps the world, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s first collection of short stories, The Refugees, adds a necessary voice humanizing this group of demonized people . It was Legaspi who helped him to his feet and into the idling Land Cruiser, Claire hovering over them with an umbrella. The kitchen consisted of a heat-scarred, two-burner portable gas stove on a countertop with black veins in the grouting, while the bathroom had no separate shower stall, only a drain in the floor next to the toilet, the showerhead on a hose. But there’s never been a place for me.”. As curtains of rain swept over the road, he ordered a Hue from the same country. The book additionally won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from an American Authorfr… If you do not know your login details, simply close this pop-up and click 'Login' on the black bar at the top of the screen, then click 'Forgotten password? By the time the monsoon arrived in the afternoon, he had drunk enough 33 Beer to remind himself that nothing had changed since he had drunk it in Thailand over 30 years ago. Claire must have been sleeping on the bamboo mat by his bed. Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. “So what are you still testing?” said Carver. With the high beams in his eyes, blinding him, he made another misstep, this time with his left foot, the toe coming down straight into the mud, the leg locking at the knee and his body pitching forward into the path of the car. “We use a mongoose because it is too light to trip a mine,” Legaspi said. Carver hesitated. It means I think I’ve found some place where I can do some good and make up for some of the things you’ve done.”, “You bombed this place. With light from the high beams scattered on the raindrops falling before him, he decided that instead of ignoring them, he should raise his head in defiance. It was the same with Vanneth, borrowing someone else’s ideas, and this was enough for Claire. Claire was kneeling by his bedside in the dark room. Almost everything looked more beautiful from a distance, the earth becoming ever more perfect as one ascended and came closer to seeing the world from God’s eyes, man’s hovels and palaces disappearing, the peaks and valleys of geography fading to become strokes of a paintbrush on a divine sphere. He was not going to die here. Carver, however, cared little for pastoral fantasies, having passed his childhood in a rural Alabama hamlet siphoned clean of hope long before his birth. Occasionally a cemetery or a temple came into view, encrusted with dragonesque architectural filigree, as well as a couple of churches, their ascetic walls plain and whitewashed. While Claire escorted Michiko on a shopping expedition for local textiles, Carver was forced to entertain himself, a problem because he had already visited the sites he was supposed to, Wat Phnom and the Royal Palace, the Independence Monument and the National Museum, the Russian Market and the Central Market. The mud was wet and cold against his belly and face, its odour and taste evoking the soil in the distant yard of his childhood, the one where he had so often lain prone on the earth and played soldier. Although she empathised with vast masses of people she had never met, total strangers who regarded her as a stranger and who would kill her without hesitation given the chance, she did not extend any such feeling to him. Our Teacher Edition on The Refugees can help. He hated taking pictures, but Michiko loved commemorating every occasion, important or trivial. “How much longer are you planning to stay?”. “Norodom, the first king of Cambodia.”. That I have a daughter who thinks she’s Vietnamese?”, “I said I have a Vietnamese soul. Required fields are marked *. Underneath was written “my bicycle was stolen” and “mistakes were made.”. He had come so very far from his boyhood days, the long afternoons playing in his father’s yard with the dust bitter in his mouth, the hours on hours passed in a one-room library reading of heroic aces dogfighting in biplanes over Europe’s muddy, bloody trenches, his entire life leading to this moment where he only now saw how much further he had to go, on a trip he could do only by himself, step by careful step. He regarded it as fate that he had met Michiko at a jazz bar in Roppongi, she a teenage waitress and he a decade older, on R&R from Okinawa, wowed by the sight of Japanese musicians sporting porkpie hats and soul patches. He lowered his head and kept walking, the downpour so intense he feared drowning if he looked up to the sky. She said it matter-of-factly, without any of the melodrama of her adolescence, when she would come home from school sobbing at a slight from a peer or a stranger, some variation along the line of What are you? She kicked aside a bamboo mat on the floor and manoeuvred him down the narrow passage between his bed and his neighbour’s. She exhibited a confidence that pleased him as he watched her hail a taxi, give directions in Khmer to the English school, and greet the students clustered in the courtyard under the shade of flame trees. The thousands? All the dozens of passengers were Asian, their eyes closed, among them the street kids and Claire’s students and Tom and Jerry. When Claire gestured at Carver and Michiko and said something in Khmer, the students greeted them in pitch-perfect English. Having a robot vacuum your living room floor or climb some steps is completely different from having it deal with sand, or grass, or rocks, or any unexpected thing even a five-year-old knows how to get around.”. Instead of being the sleek, stainless steel machines Carver expected, the robots were cobbled together from what looked like two tin milkshakes, joined mouth-to-mouth, each milkshake sporting a pair of legs made from rubber hose. But he was frightened, more so than he had ever expected to be. Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with our newsletter, subscription offers and other relevant information. The bathroom door was a pale green rectangle in the blue moonlight before them. Viet Thanh Nguyen, "I'd Love You to Want Me". Whenever Ricky stopped and stood up on his hind legs, Tom stepped in with the metal detector to confirm the landmine’s existence, and Jerry marked it with a red flag. Underneath was written “my bicycle was stolen” and “mistakes were made.”. “The Americans” was originally published on the Chicago Tribune, where it was a 2010 Nelson Algren Short Story Awards finalist. The comment irritated Carver, implying as it did that he was somehow whining about having broken his hip three years ago, when he had fallen down the stairway of his own house. Jerry carried out a pair of robots from another shack. He walked out of the store then, leaving her there, and he had no choice but to walk away now. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides. “There was always a place for you somewhere. Viet Thanh Nguyen 404D Taper Hall Department of English University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354 Email. Vanneth had returned to steering Ricky, while Claire had her arms folded across her chest, daring him to walk away, exactly as he dared her when she was six, clamoring for a blond Barbie doll in a toy store. The Refugees Summary T he Refugees is a collection of short stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen about Vietnamese immigrants and their children, many of whom … “You said the Department of Defence was funding your adviser’s research at MIT. What am I bitter about? You just need some rest.”. Viet Thanh Nguyen. The tonnage fell far behind his B-52 after its release, and so he had never seen his own payload explode or even drop, although he watched other planes of his squadron scattering their black seed into the wind, leaving him to imagine what he would later see on film, the bombs exploding, footfalls of an invisible giant stomping the earth. But now retired, limping out of his sixties, he no longer knew what his goal should be. Her tears agonized Carver, making him feel guilty for delivering her into a world determined to put everybody in her proper place. As an airman, William knew that if his father could live life all over again, Carver wouldn’t hesitate to crawl once more through the narrow breech in the paunch of the B-52’s fuselage, the entry never failing to make him quiver with anticipation. Occasionally a Wat came into view, spectacularly encrusted with dragonesque architectural filigree, as well as a couple of mosques, their ascetic walls plain and whitewashed. “You don’t even know where you are.”. The ribbon of earthen road was now the texture of peanut butter, and he sank millimetre by millimetre into its stickiness as the monsoon’s onslaught continued. When Carver rolled down his window, he discovered that the smell of the countryside was just as unpleasant, the air thick with blasts of soot from passing trucks, the rot of buffalo dung, the fermentation of the local cuisine that he found briny and nauseating. He drank too eagerly and water dribbled over his lip and onto his gown. University of Southern California “They guard the site and look after the mongooses.”, The mongoose Tom fetched from one of the shacks was named Ricky, feline in size but with a more luxuriant coat of fur and the angular, wedge-shaped head of a mouse. In a short time, Viet Thanh Nguyen has encircled the American literary consciousness: first with his mind-bending 2015 novel “The Sympathizer,” then last … PORTRAIT OF VIET THANH NGUYEN ©DAVID LEVENSON/GETTY IMAGES. It is Nguyen's first published short story collection and his first book after winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer. 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