the sympathizer-viet thanh nguyen (part too)

“We spoke of our new geography in our own version of English, each syllable stressed, Chicago becoming Chick-ah-go, New York pronounced closer to Newark, Texas broken down to Tex-ass, California now Ca-li.” (66)

“We did our best to conjure up the culinary staples of our culture, but since we were dependent on Chinese markets our food had an unacceptably Chinese tinge, another blow in the gauntlet of our humiliation that left us with the sweet-and-sour taste of unreliable memories, just correct enough to evoke the past, just wrong enough to remind us that the past was forever gone, missing along with the proper variety, subtlety, and complexity of our universal solvent, fish sauce. Oh, fish sauce!” (67)

“So it was that we soaped ourselves in sadness and we rinsed ourselves with hope, and for all that we believed almost every rumor we heard, almost all of us refused to believe that our nation was dead.” (69)

“The workmates I met later that night in the hotel bar were less thrilled about the weather, none of them having ever been mugged by the full-force humidity of a tropical climate. It’s like getting licked from throat to balls by my dog every time I go outside, the unhappy production designer groaned. He was from Minnesota. His name was Harry. He was hairy.” (144)

“Before the communists won, foreigners were victimizing and terrorizing and humiliating us. Now it’s our own people victimizing and terrorizing and humiliating us. I suppose that’s improvement.” (146)

“The Chinese might have invented gunpowder and the noodle, but the West had invented cleavage, with profound if underappreciated implications. A man gazing on semi-exposed breasts was not only engaging in simple lasciviousness, he was also meditating, even if unawares, on the visual embodiment of the verb ‘to cleave’, which meant both to cut apart and to put together. A woman’s cleavage perfectly illustrated this double and contradictory meaning, the breasts two separate entities with one identity. The double meaning was also in how cleavage separated a woman from a man and yet drew him to her with the irresistible force of sliding down a slippery slope. Men had no equivalent, except, perhaps, for the only kind of male cleavage most women truly cared for, the opening and closing of a well-stuffed billfold. But whereas women could look at us as much as they wanted, and we would appreciate it, we were damned if we looked and hardly less damned if we didn’t. A woman with extraordinary cleavage would reasonably be insulted by a man whose eyes could resist the plunge, so, just to be polite, I cast a tasteful glance while reaching for another cigarette. In between those marvelous breasts bumped a gold crucifix on a gold chain, and for once I wished I were a true Christian so I could be nailed to that cross.” (232)

today’s collection is the meat of what’s bold and brilliant about this book-no injustice left behind. i love that the author is able to poke and prod at everyone’s delusions and failings, and dismantle all sides.

just like kanye in “golddigger”.


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