Aerol Arnold Chair of English
Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s renowned body of work transcends the boundaries between literary genre and academic discourse. His Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, challenges America’s recollections of the Vietnam War by braiding its narrative with the perspectives of the Vietnamese. He compels us to confront the function of memory in how we understand the legacies of war and the persistent inequalities resulting from violent conflict. In that vein, his sociological diary Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War emerges from similar archival research and teaches us, through theory, the importance of empathy and compassion in the cultural processing of a major collective trauma.
The widespread acclaim of Professor Nguyen’s work affirms the power of his kaledescopic explorations of war, loss, and reconciliation. Critics categorize his books among the most important ever written about the Vietnam War, and his peers have lauded his propulsive, illuminating fiction as an essential addition to the canon of American literature. Readers also express a profound response to Professor Nguyen’s talent for articulating the displacement and splitting of individual identity. By capturing the way that peoples bond together as their nations entangle in war, he continues the work of writers of color in analyzing themes of double consciousness, while simultaneously recasting the Vietnam War and revealing its fraught significance to the country as a whole.
For his outstanding achievements as an artist, scholar, and cultural critic, as well as his steadfast dedication to teaching and to serving the public good, the University of Southern California is pleased to honor Viet Thanh Nguyen with the USC Associates Award for Artistic Expression.