A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, a memoir by Viet Thanh Nguyen, is one of the top books I have read in 2023. It will remain with me for many years.
It is profound, powerful, thought provoking and it holds up a mirror to how America treats immigrants and refugees.
Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016 for The Sympathizer even though fourteen publishers passed on the opportunity to publish his book. In A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, Nguyen shares how writers of color must read and be very familiar with White authors’ works. White ignorance of the works of writers of color is a privilege—and there is often a lack of interest in expanding knowledge and reading books by people of color.
Nguyen’s memoir is formatted like poetry and the storytelling is masterful. The topics include colonization, nationalism, genocide, war, refugees, immigrants, racism, and voicelessness and how that impacts the American Dream.
There are many visceral, memorable passages including:
* Refugees are seen as zombies of the world
* Fear and terror shape refugees
* B+ average is an Asian F
* As a model minority, sometimes you rock the boat but most of the time you row, diligently
* Stories are there to shake you, unnerve you, and make you see a new version of yourself
* Under colonization, none of us can breathe. When we recognize that, we can all struggle for breath together.
* Thanksgiving is both a reunion and a story of genocide
* Refugees often feel betrayed because they are taken to the country that was the aggressor in their home country and then they are expected to be grateful
* White nationalism is the US identity
* White nationalism requires demonizing racial others and subordinating women
* Anti-Asian violence increased once Trump called the pandemic the Chinese virus and Kung Flu
* What does it mean to be illegal when the law is unjust?
* MLK: Riots are the language of the unheard
* Being racist is easier than blaming capitalism
* Countries gush refugees because the country is broken or they are breaking their people
* An aerosol of racism permeates America
* There is no such thing as voicelessness. Voices are deliberately silenced or preferably unheard.
* Writing can be an act of justice
* Writer’s ultimate task: find what shouldn’t be written and write it
Thanks, NetGalley, for a free ARC of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion. Expected publication date is October 3, 2023.
Highly, highly recommend!