Viet Thanh Nguyen’s two favorite reads of 2017

Viet Thanh Nguyen
(John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation )
Critic at Large

I was late to reading Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout” but loved it as I knew I would, having been a fan since his 2001 novel “The White Boy Shuffle.” He wrote so many lines and deployed so many ideas I wished I had, beginning with the legal case that begins the novel: Me vs. America.

Less well known than “The Sellout” is Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Song Poet.” Her second memoir is a deeply moving account of her Hmong father, a working-class machinist in English-speaking America but a world-class song poet in the Hmong language. If you have a choice between spending 18 hours on a Vietnam War documentary or reading Yang’s book — read Yang’s book. You’ll learn something new, including how the Vietnam War was also fought in Laos and devastated the Hmong people.

Paul Beatty’s"The Sellout” and Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Song Poet”
(Picador/Metropolitan Books )

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