the sympathizer-viet thanh nguyen

“Like all good students, I yearned for nothing but approval, even from fools.” (62)

“I pitied the French for their naivete in believing that they had to visit a country in order to exploit it. Hollywood was much more efficient, imagining the countries it wanted to exploit.” (129)

“This the writers apparently took as an implicit metaphor of our country as a whole, wanton and yet withdrawn, hinting at everything and giving away nothing in a dazzling display of demureness, a paradoxical incitement to temptation, a breathtakingly lewd exhibition of modesty. Hardly any male travel writer, journalist, or casual observer of our country’s life could restrain himself from writing about these young girls who rode their bicycles to and from school in those fluttering white ao dai, butterflies that every Western man dreamed of pinning to his collection.” (110)

“But amnesia was as American as apple pie, and it was much preferred by Americans over both humble pie and the fraught foods of foreign intruders. Like us, Americans were suspicious of unfamiliar food, which they identified with the strangers who brought them.” (188)

“Isn’t it funny that in a society that values freedom above all things, things that are free are not valued?” (141)

“What do those who struggle against power do when they seize power? What does the revolutionary do when the revolution triumphs? Why do those who call for independence and freedom take away the independence and freedom of others?” (365)

and folks, we have a pulitzer prize winner. the aaww picked this one, the author appears in a photo with the homie brandy lien worrall, and the book contains the squid masturbation story to end (and begin) all squid masturbation stories.

i can’t help but be proud of this one, even though it comes from south of the border, and the american vietnamese experience is much different from the canadian one, and the author probably wouldn’t blink an eyelash or claim me back-i don’t care. i am proud and i love this book.

i love how he just gets into it. how he complicates the spy narrative, and looks at the reasons that some people would claim to be something or believe something, when none of us are who we claim/think/want to be. and yet, we are. i love how brave it is to admit that freedom isn’t free, and the ability to point that out in a contemporary context by illustrating the past(s) that we seem doomed to forget.

i love how meta the book is as a book that examines other cultural artifacts and their construction, as well as the importance of making cultural representations that flesh out our identity (simply by existing).

i will recommend this one to my dad-i don’t know if he’ll read it. but for some reason, i’m seeing his copy of mcnamera‘s book about viet nam on the third shelf of the hall closet in our old home.



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