Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    
Boulder Interview/Event: Vietnamese author on the legacy of the Viet Nam War & the human capacity for forgiveness

Boulder Interview/Event: Vietnamese author on the legacy of the Viet Nam War & the human capacity for forgiveness


Editor’s Note: Press Releases are provided to Yellow Scene. In an effort to keep our community informed, we publish some press releases in whole.

Nguyen Phan Que Mai will be in the Boulder area on March 24th and 25th, putting on two truly remarkable events for her forthcoming novel DUST CHILD (3/14)

Friday night, the 24th, Que Mai will be at the Estes Valley Library for an event cohosted by Macdonald Bookshop. She’ll be accompanied by the award-winning poet Jennifer Fossenbell and Estes Valley community member Heather Heinz. Saturday afternoon, she’ll be at the Boulder Book Store, with Lighthouse Writers and CU Boulder’s Center for Asian Studies as cohosts. Throughout our book tour planning, it’s been so exciting for us to watch such a broad community coalesce around Que Mai, and I highly encourage you to attend one or both of her events to see it firsthand.

Que Mai’s brilliant, heart wrenching DUST CHILD gives voice to the often-invisible women of the Viet Nam War and to the Amerasian children left behind when American troops departed. Having lived through the with the generational trauma of the war’s aftermath, Que Mai is determined to be a force of good. She has worked with American veterans who returned to help rebuild her homeland, assist victims of Agent Orange, remove unexploded ordnance, and in some extraordinary cases, to look for their Amerasian children. It’s rare that an author lives out a part of their fiction, but Que Mai has, remarkably, personally helped reunite an Amerasion woman with her American veteran father. It would be wonderful to highlight Que Mai’s personal story alongside her book. She can speak knowledgeably and compellingly on Viet Nam’s history and complex relationship with the United States, so she would be particularly well suited for coverage timed to the 50th anniversary of the last U.S. combat troops departing South Vietnam and most remaining American prisoners of war being set free. There are so many good stories in and around this book – I’m so excited to get DUST CHILD into the hands of readers, and I hope you’ll feel the same!

“Another triumphPowerful and deeply empathetic. Nguyen Phan Que Mai weaves a heartbreaking tale of lost ideals, human devotion, and hard-won redemption. DUST CHILD establishes Que 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 Thahn Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sympathizer and The Committed

by Nguyen Phan Que Mai


In 1969, sisters Trang and Quynh, 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 Viet 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 Viet 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.

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by:

 Salon // Ms. Magazine // Zibby Mag // BookPage // We Are Bookish // BookRiot // Library Journal // Publishers Weekly // Historical Novel Society // San Diego Union-Tribune // Orange County Register // The Manual // SheReads // Thoughts From a Page // Beyond the Bookends // Trenzle

“Nguyen Phan Que 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 Nguyen Phan Que 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 Thahn 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

“Nguyen Phan Que 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, Nguyen Phan Que 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

“Nguyen Phan Que 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, Que 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

“With a poet’s gift for language and a psychologist’s eye for the tender, error-prone hearts of mankind, Nguyen Phan Que Mai weaves a web of impossible choices, inescapable circumstance, and searing loss, set to the backdrop of a war that changed everything . . . A heartbreaking, beautifully told, utterly unique story of love, loss, and longing that speaks to the very heart of the human experience.”
— Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars

“Scenes of past and present Viet Nam come alive in these pages, drawing you into the lives of a handful of characters who become like your family, and in whose stories lies the heartbreaking story of Viet Nam’s complicated relationship with America. With her generous heart and unmatched ability to write across languages and cultures, Que Mai is the perfect guide for the wounded who search for home and healing.”
— Thi Bui, award-winning author of The Best We Could Do

“Well-researched, realistic, and compassionately written, Dust Child brings to life the heartbreaking experiences of young American men and young Vietnamese women who were pulled into the vortex of the Viet Nam War and the tragedy inherited by their Amerasian children. Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s powerful novel enables us to travel deep into Viet Nam’s past and present days so that we can bear witness to the courage of her Amerasian, Vietnamese, and American characters. This eye-opening and fascinating novel is a must-read!”
— Le Ly Hayslip, bestselling author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and The Child of War, Woman of Peace

“The sons and daughters of American soldiers and their Vietnamese girlfriends who exhibited African American and European features were shunned by Vietnam’s monoethnic society during and after the war. Nguyen Phan Que Mai writes of some of these “dust children” with complexity and heart. This is a powerful and moving story, brilliantly told.”
— Robert Mason, New York Times bestselling author of Chickenhawk

“In her riveting successor to The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai has masterfully captured the toll of war and its aftermath on a Black Amerasian, an outcast in the country of his birth, on an American vet, haunted and seeking redemption, and on two Vietnamese sisters, forced by economic hardship into circumstances they could not have foreseen. Nguyen creates, in her luminous prose, a gripping and nuanced narrative of men and women caught in the web of war and its aftermath.”
— Steven DeBonis, author of Children of the Enemy: Oral Histories of Vietnamese Amerasians and Their Mothers

“With great compassion, with a firm conviction in the redeeming power of love and forgiveness, and with the consummate skill of a great story-teller, Nguyen Phan Que Mai weaves us into the lives, past and present, of those called “the dust of life”—the ostracized, mixed-race children of American soldiers; their mothers, compelled by war into prostitution, and their fathers, the G.I.’s who abandoned them and yet remained haunted by them.”
— Professor Wayne Karlin, author of Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam

“From the author of the bestselling book The Mountains Sing comes this epic story of those who lived through the Viet Nam conflict or were otherwise deeply affected by it decades later.”
— Ms. Magazine

“A powerful tale that examines the complex way different lives became intertwined during and after the war.”
— The Manual

“[A] saga of a book that truly captures the desperation, grief, and pain of the war that continues to live on, decades after American military involvement. A great read for those unfamiliar with the conflict in Vietnam.”
— Mochi Magazine

“Achingly honest and ultimately hopeful; essential reading for U.S. audiences.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

“Stirring… Nguyen writes with an intimate, detailed understanding of Vietnamese women’s treatment during the war and the struggles of Amerasians seeking their parents in the present… it has the grace of a page-turner and sheds light on a neglected subject. A well-turned tale of broken families across continents and decades.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Rewarding… with a cinematic clarity.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Que Mai adeptly balances these contemporary narratives with Phong’s early experiences and the wartime story of sisters Trang and Quynh… There are no clear heroes or villains here as characters’ actions and choices are shaped by their circumstances and the war’s legacy.”
— Booklist

About the Author

Born into the Red Delta of Northern Viet Nam, Dr. Nguyen Phan Que Mai grew up in the Mekong Delta, Southern Viet Nam. She is a writer and translator who has published twelve books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction in Vietnamese and English and has translated seven books. Her last book, The Mountains Sing, was an international bestseller, runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship, and other prizes. Her writing has been translated into more than 15 languages and has appeared in major publications including the New York Times. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. While working on her most recent novel, Dust Child, Que Mai helped set up a scholarship program for Amerasians in Viet Nam (the Amerasian Hope & Future Scholarship). For more information, visit: www.nguyenphanquemai.com

Select Praise for The Mountains Sing:

New York Times Book Review: “Editor’s Choice/Staff Pick”
The Washington Post: “Ten Books To Read in March”
The Week: “Books To Read In 2020, Noteworthy”
Book Riot: “20 of the Best Book Club Books for 2020”

“A sweeping story that positions Vietnamese life within the rich and luminous history of national epics like The Tale of Kieand the Iliad. Expansive in scope and feeling, The Mountains Sing is a feat of hope, an unflinchingly felt inquiry into the past, with the courageous storytelling of the present.”
—Ocean Vuong, MacArthur award winner and author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

The Mountains Sing is an epic account of Viet Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling. Through the travails of one family, Nguyen Phan Que Mai brings us close to the horrors of famine, war, and class struggle. But in this moving and riveting novel, she also shows us a postwar Viet Nam, a country of hope and renewal, home to a people who have never given up.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Sympathizer

“Good literature frees us from being trapped in our own skins by allowing us to identify with characters and see the world through their eyes. Reading this novel, I was moved by Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s beautiful, even poetic, depictions of enduring courage. I came away with a deeper understanding of the war in which I fought.”
—Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn, What It’s Like to Go to War, and Deep River

“A sweeping saga… Alternating between lyricism and blunt reality, Nguyen Phan Que Mai gives us a vivid look at Vietnam from within.”
People Magazine

Leave a Reply