Friday, November 11 - 5:00 p.m. PST
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s writing is bold, elegant, and fiercely honest. His remarkable debut novel, The Sympathizer, won the Pulitzer Prize, was a Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner, and made the finalist list for the PEN/Faulkner award.
Viet and his family came to the United States as refugees during the Vietnam War in 1975. As he grew up in America, he began to notice that most movies and books about the war focused on Americans while the Vietnamese were silenced and erased. He was inspired by this lack of representation to write about the war from a Vietnamese perspective, globally reimagining what we thought we knew about the conflict. The New York Times says that his novel, The Sympathizer, “fills a void...giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of forty years ago in a new light.” His voice is refreshing and powerful as he urges readers to examine the legacy of that tumultuous time and its aftermath from a new perspective. The audacious novel has also been described by The Guardian as having a “Whitman- like multiplicity” as it “reads like the absolute opposite of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.” The Committed, the long-awaited follow-up to The Sympathizer, was published in 2021 and has been called “a masterwork” and “revelatory.”
Viet was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. The MacArthur foundation noted that Viet’s work “not only offers insight into the experiences of refugees past and present, but also poses profound questions about how we might more accurately and conscientiously portray victims and adversaries of other wars.” Along with teaching at the University of Southern California, he works as a cultural critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times. Viet lives in LA with his wife and two children.
Susan Straight’s new novel, Mecca, was published in March 2022 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, receiving stellar reviews by The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and others. Her 2019 memoir, In the Country of Women, was a national bestseller, named a best book of the year by NPR and CodeSwitch, and longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence. She has published eight previous novels, including Highwire Moon, a Finalist for the National Book Award and bestseller, and A Million Nightingales, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in O Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Granta, Harpers, and elsewhere. Her awards include the Lannan Prize for Fiction, the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Story, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has been translated into French, Spanish, German, Turkish, Arabic, Swedish, Polish, and Japanese. She was born in Riverside, California, where she lives with her family, serving as Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at The University of California, Riverside.
The Capps Lecture is generously sponsored by the University of Califonia, Santa Barbara.