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The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 5+ hrs.
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The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, narrated by the author, is a collection of short stories, with some seeming to be autobiographical or at least inspired by his own life here in the United States. Some of these refugees are seen through the eyes of another, and in this way, Nguyen provides us with a dual perspective — how the narrator views the refugee and how the refugees view themselves.

The narration was satisfactory as read by the author, but some of it could have been better served by a more practiced audiobook narrator who could have breathed life into the characters and helped readers “feel” the tensions a little more deeply. The author’s narration really didn’t add anything to these stories, like a trained narrator would have.

Despite the narration falling flat, these stories explore what it means to leave one’s homeland for another and be caught between them — between what happened in that other country and what is happening now as a result of those experiences. But not only has Nguyen given us stories that explore that rift in identity and culture shock of entering a new country to call home, he also explores the family bond and how it can be frayed by the past in Vietnam, dementia, sibling jealousy, and so much more. What are the dreams of these refugees and immigrants, will they be achieved, have the given up, are they settling, can they feel at home in a new country that is so different from where they came from? These are the kinds of questions explored in theses stories, and many of these characters seem to stem from Nguyen’s own experiences and family history.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen is probably best read in print or in ebook, rather than on audio, so the nuance of Nguyen’s stories are not lost on the reader. I did enjoy spending time with these characters, but I’ll likely revisit them in print.

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #630

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased from Kelsay Books.

You have in your hands poems of a mournful witness-nearly all evoke a tone of bitterness over the devastation and trauma of endless wars. The book’s ironic title is a purposeful oxymoron: “there are no / little wars-no distance / we cannot reduce to nothing.” Luther Jett’s poetry voices itself in precise diction and nuanced rhythms that grab hold of your attention and do not let go.

-Merrill Leffler, Author of Mark the Music

Compassion-both its presence and its absence-interests W. Luther Jett. His previous collections Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father and Our Situation explored trauma and healing. Little Wars digs for the roots of pain in the twentieth century’s geopolitical conflicts, from World War II to Bosnia. The people in these poems go about their daily lives as the bombs fall, trying-and too often failing-to retain their human connection, deepening “the wound we make of breathing.” Jett’s sorrow pours out in the tones of an Old Testament prophet or catches, choking, in his throat. In this raw-edged, lyrical collection, Jett absolves no one: the fault is ” . . . ours, ours, and ours alone, our making / because we refuse to make stars / out of the coals / that burn in our hearts.”

-Katherine E. Young, Author of Woman Drinking Absinthe and Day of the Border Guards , Poet Laureate Emerita, Arlington, VA

Little Wars is a moving and deeply disturbing series of poems. From the poppies symbolizing the dead soldiers of World War I to the destruction of the Mostar Bridge in the Bosnian War, Jett recounts “the cities leveled and the fields / upchurned” in war’s path. The ubiquity of current combat, ever rumbling, is in these poignant pages too, and the survivors always left “waiting / for the siren’s blast, the tramp / of boots along the stairs.”

-Kim Roberts, Author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC

My Audible Downloads:


What did you receive?