Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen to speak at UC Santa Cruz on Oct. 19

Celebrated writer and cultural critic just named a 2017 MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow

Viet Thanh Nguyen (photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation)
Viet Thanh Nguyen (photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation)

On October 11, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Viet Thanh Nguyen a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship for his work as a fiction writer and cultural critic, citing his contributions to “challenging popular depictions of the Vietnam War and exploring the myriad ways that war lives on for those it has displaced.”

In 2016, Nguyen received the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, The Sympathizer. Later that year, his nonfiction book, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, was named a finalist for the National Book Award. 

Next Thursday, October 19, Nguyen will give a reading at the Humanities Lecture Hall on the UC Santa Cruz campus at 7 p.m. as part of the campus’s 2017 fall Living Writer Series. Admission is free and open to the public.

A professor at USC and a critic for the Los Angeles Times, Nguyen is well known for his compelling exploration of the immigrant experience. Born in Buon Me Thuot, Vietnam, he came to the United States in 1975 with his family and was initially settled in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, one of four camps for Vietnamese refugees.

Nguyen ended up in San Jose, where his parents opened one of the first Vietnamese grocery stores in the city. He used that setting for his most recent book of fiction, a short story collection titled The Refugees, which was published earlier this year. 

A review of the book in the Los Angeles Times noted that “wistfulness threads through The Refugees like an anthem of displacement,” adding that “the collection casts a formidable spell, especially at this political moment when refugees are both a lightning rod and an abstraction.”

As the MacArthur Foundation noted, “Nguyen's body of work not only offers insight into the experiences of refugees past and present, but also poses profound questions about how we might more accurately and conscientiously portray victims and adversaries of other wars.”

Nguyen’s essays and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of publications including the New York Times, The Guardian, Time, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and the Asian American Literary Review. He is also the author of the book, Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America.

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Nguyen is currently affiliated with the University of Southern California, where he is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and a professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity and the Department of Comparative Literature.


Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen will speak at UC Santa Cruz on Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., in the Humanities Lecture Hall. This event is presented as part of the campus’s Fall Living Writers Series. Admission is free and open to the public.