Another person’s perspective can allow eye-opening realizations for things we know exist but don’t always acknowledge. Books allow us to do just that, and authors can help us further understand by directly telling us their story, just as one Pulitzer Prize-winning writer did on March 2.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen visited Pasadena City College as part of Pasadena’s annual “One City, One Story” community book celebration.

Every year the Pasadena Public Library holds a program called “One City, One Story.” During the summer, a community reader suggests books for the upcoming spring program. Once spring rolls around and a book has been chosen, there are book discussions held in various places throughout Pasadena. PCC is one of the many schools that sponsors events like panels, concerts, and art galleries in relation to the book selected. This spring it was Nguyen’s book, “The Sympathizer.”

Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American author and professor of English, American Studies, and Ethnicity at University of Southern California.

“The Sympathizer” was Nguyen’s debut novel in April of 2015, followed by his second novel’s publication in March of 2016, and his most recent novels publication in February of 2017. Nguyen has also published many short stories and nonfiction pieces throughout his career.

“The Sympathizer” tells the story of the South Vietnamese Government in 1975 and subsequent events from exile in Los Angeles through the eyes of a half-Vietnamese, half-French undercover communist agent.

Nguyen read various pages from “The Sympathizer” for PCC students and faculty, followed with a question and answer session right after, and a book signing at the end.

As Nguyen was reading excerpts from “The Sympathizer,” many of the themes he spoke of were powerful, evocative, and provocative.

“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds,” Nguyen read from his book.

Along with winning and being nominated for many awards, Nguyen’s book has been chosen by many PCC English teachers to be included in their spring courses for their students.

“My professor assigned this book for my class and I really enjoyed it,” PCC student Ashley Hernandez said. “I honestly thought I was going to be bored by the book and wouldn’t want to read it but it was the opposite.”

“The Sympathizer” allows the reader a glimpse of what it is like to be a refugee in a foreign place, an experience not many people have to endure.

It is a book about Vietnamese refugees, and this campus has students that can relate to some things in this book,” dean of English Amy Ulmer said. “This book is compelling and can lead to great writing from students in classrooms.”
Nguyen will have an appearance at the L.A. Public Library where he will be interviewing Ocean Vuong on March 13.

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