A few weeks ago, we welcomed Pulitzer Prizewinner Viet Thanh Nguyen to Shakespeare and Company to discuss his engrossing new work A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, a book about family, and memory, and storytelling, and history, on all the levels that it impacts upon a life.

Buy A Man of Two Faces here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/a-man-of-two-faces

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The highly original, blistering, and unconventional memoir by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, which has now sold over one million copies worldwide

With insight, humour, formal invention, and lyricism, in A Man of Two Faces Nguyen rewinds the film of his own life. He expands the genre of personal memoir by acknowledging larger stories of refugeehood, colonization, and ideas about Vietnam and America, writing with his trademark sardonic wit and incisive analysis, as well as a deep emotional openness about his life as a father and a son.

At the age of four, Nguyen and his family are forced to flee his hometown of Ban Mê Thu?t and come to the USA as refugees. After being removed from his brother and parents and homed with a family on his own, Nguyen is later allowed to resettle into his own family in suburban San José. But there is violence hidden behind the sunny façade of what he calls AMERICA™. One Christmas Eve, when Nguyen is nine, while watching cartoons at home, he learns that his parents have been shot while working at their grocery store, the SàiGòn M?i, a place where he sometimes helps price tins of fruit with a sticker gun. Years later, as a teenager, the blood-stirring drama of the films of the Vietnam War such as Apocalypse Now throw Nguyen into an existential crisis: how can he be both American and Vietnamese, both the killer and the person being killed? When he learns about an adopted sister who has stayed back in Vietnam, and ultimately visits her, he grows to understand just how much his parents have left behind. And as his parents age, he worries increasingly about their comfort and care, and realizes that some of their older wounds are reopening.

Resonant in its emotions and clear in its thinking about cultural power, A Man of Two Faces explores the necessity of both forgetting and of memory, the promises America so readily makes and breaks, and the exceptional life story of one of the most original and important writers working today.

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Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-england

Listen to Alex Freiman’s latest EP, In The Beginning: https://open.spotify.com/album/5iZYPMCUnG7xiCtsFCBlVa?si=h5x3FK1URq6SwH9Kb_SO3w

Photo by Hugo Clair Torregrosa (c) Shakespeare and Company Paris 

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