Việt Thanh Nguyễn: The Man of Two Faces

Việt Thanh Nguyễn is damn fine writer. I enjoyed his novels, but admired his memoir. His prose commands attention and I couldn’t stop reading his remarkable The Man of Two Faces. As a literary critic, he tackles colonialism, capitalism, and racism head on. As a son, he writes eloquently about his parents. As a Vietnamese American, he holds nothing back from the true meaning behind the American Dream. This memoir is a prerequisite reading for Asian Americans and a required reading for all Americans.

A Few Notes

Nguyễn writes about AMERICAMT:

a pro-life nation,
indivisible, under God,
has watered its dark fields
with blood spilled from
& war.

Nguyễn writes about bad Vietnamese refugees:

Taking welfare benefits while working for cash in the ethnic economy? Receiving government housing subsidies while renting out rooms to even poorer refugees? Faking marriage to get immigration status? Faking divorce so supposedly single parents and their children could get additional benefits? Faking car accidents and injuries for insurance money, and treating nonexistent patients to fraudulently claim government reimbursements? Abusing children and wives? Racially discriminating against the Amerasian children of American soldiers, including those children used as passports to the United States by their families, who then sometimes abandon them? Assaulting and robbing fellow refugees, as well as stealing microchips, extorting businesses, running brothels, and dealing drugs? Assassinating journalists with unpopular opinions about the homeland? Going to the homeland and pretending to be rich even if one is a busboy? Finding a girlfriend, mistress, or second wife and living a doubled existence, or, fuck it, just abandoning one’s diasporic family altogether for the sweet life back home?

Nguyễn writes about his decision to focus on English:

As a child, you must have made the decision. You could not speak both languages like a native or like a master. The worst possible outcome: speak both languages poorly. The next worse outcome: speak English like a foreigner but retain your mother tongue. The best outcome: speak English like a native, Vietnamese like a child.

Now that he is an accomplished writer with a masterful skills for English. It’s time to sew back his mother tongue.