One of our recommended books is Dust Child by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

DUST CHILD


From the internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing, a suspenseful and moving saga about family secrets, hidden trauma, and the overriding power of forgiveness, set during the war and in present-day Việt Nam.

In 1969, sisters Trang and Quỳnh, desperate to help their parents pay off debts, leave their rural village and become “bar girls” in Sài Gòn, drinking, flirting (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a young and charming American helicopter pilot.

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From the internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing, a suspenseful and moving saga about family secrets, hidden trauma, and the overriding power of forgiveness, set during the war and in present-day Việt Nam.

In 1969, sisters Trang and Quỳnh, desperate to help their parents pay off debts, leave their rural village and become “bar girls” in Sài Gòn, drinking, flirting (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a young and charming American helicopter pilot. Decades later, an American veteran, Dan, returns to Việt Nam with his wife, Linda, hoping to find a way to heal from his PTSD and, unbeknownst to her, reckon with secrets from his past.

At the same time, Phong—the son of a Black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman—embarks on a search to find both his parents and a way out of Việt Nam. Abandoned in front of an orphanage, Phong grew up being called “the dust of life,” “Black American imperialist,” and “child of the enemy,” and he dreams of a better life for himself and his family in the U.S.

Past and present converge as these characters come together to confront decisions made during a time of war—decisions that force them to look deep within and find common ground across race, generation, culture, and language. Suspenseful, poetic, and perfect for readers of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s HomegoingDust Child tells an unforgettable and immersive story of how those who inherited tragedy can redefine their destinies through love, hard-earned wisdom, compassion, courage, and joy.

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  • Algonquin Books
  • Hardcover
  • March 2023
  • 336 Pages
  • 9781643752754

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$28.00

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About Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Que Mai Phan Nguyen is the author of Dust ChildBorn and raised in Việt Nam, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is the author of The Mountains Sing, runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, the 2021 International Book Awards, the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for Fiction. She has published twelve books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and has received some of the top literary prizes in Việt Nam. Her writing has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in major publications, including the New York Times. She has a PhD in creative writing from Lancaster University. She is an advocate for the rights of disadvantaged groups in Việt Nam and has founded several scholarship programs, and she was named by Forbes Vietnam as one of twenty inspiring women of 2021.

Author Website

Praise

“Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai will win many more readers with her powerful and deeply empathetic second novel. From the horrors of war and its enduring afterlife for men and women, lovers and children, soldiers and civilians, she weaves a heartbreaking tale of lost ideals, human devotion, and hard-won redemption. Dust Child establishes Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai as one of our finest observers of the devastating consequences of war, and proves, once more, her ability to captivate readers and lure them into Viet Nam’s rich and poignant history.” — Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sympathizer and The Committed

“Dazzling. Sharply drawn and hauntingly beautiful.” — Elif Shafak, author of The Island of Missing Trees

“Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai shows us the capacity we hold to confront our pasts, for the purpose of life is not to remain intact, but to break open, to let loss be a guide, to face the echoes of longing. In Dust Child, rupture leads to emotional richness and pain creates the pathways worth walking. I truly cannot wait for the rest of the world to celebrate this book.” — Chanel Miller, New York Times bestselling author of Know My Name

“Once again, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has written a beautiful novel that shines a light on the history of Vietnam. With a poet’s grace, she writes of the legacy of war across time and place and the stories that bind us. Dust Child is simply stunning.” — Eric Nguyen, author of Things We Lost To The Water

“Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is one of the most unique storytellers of our time. She creates plots which are Dickensian in their breadth and mastery, while bravely probing the complex emotional challenges of living in a modern world full of disruption and displacement. In Dust Child, Quế Mai displays the same tenderness and compassion for her characters, hard-earned understanding of human trauma, and poetically evocative language that made her debut novel The Mountains Sing an international bestseller beloved around the world.” — Natalie Jenner, internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society

Discussion Questions

1. Did the stories of Trang and Quýnh change your perception of Vietnamese women from what you might have seen or read previously in popular culture? If so, in what ways?

2. According to a statistic published by the BBC, approximately 100,000 Amerasian were born from relationships between Vietnamese women and American soldiers during the war there. Do you think Phong’s life is typical of these “dust children”? What do you think could have been done differently for the mothers and children in Vietnam after the soldiers left? By the Vietnamese government? By the U.S. government?

3. Did you notice the diacritical marks while reading? Did they affect your reading experience? If so, how? Why do you think it was important to the author to include them?