📖: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015)
🍸: man of two minds
Why this book?
I picked up The Sympathizer because I was so thrilled to see a Vietnam War novel by a Vietnamese-American writer. This is one of my FAVORITE books — I still cannot stop thinking about the questions it raises, like: What do you do when you realize your complicity in destructive systems of power? What is the cost of loyalty when you subscribe to any political ideology?
This novel is narrated by a nameless half-Vietnamese, half-French Communist double agent, known as the Captain, who is sent to spy on Vietnamese refugees in California after the Fall of Saigon. In telling his story, the Captain rejects the prevalence of US-centric and imperialistic interpretations of the war, while criticizing both US and Vietnamese forces for their roles in the conflict, sparing no side from guilt. In doing so, the book challenged me to question my assumptions about all the players in this war. And on a more personal level, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s brilliant writing made me think more critically about my relationship to the US as a member of the Vietnamese diaspora.
Why this drink?
I am pairing this novel with my special version of the Dark ‘n’ Stormy – a drink with two main ingredients – to reflect the duality and inner conflict that the narrator embodies. With his mixed race background, the Captain prides himself as a “man of two minds” who can understand and manipulate the motivations of both his allies and adversaries. However, the longer he lives among his enemies in America, the more he questions his political allegiance, and ultimately, who he is as an individual. Once you begin sympathizing with another person, can you really remain unchanged? I couldn’t after finishing this novel.
FYI the sequel The Committed comes out in March! Until then, I HIGHLY recommend Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Nothing Ever Dies, which provides critical theory about the memory of war that will enrich your reading and analysis of The Sympathizer!
P.S. The secret to making this tasty drink is Kraken Rum — purely coincidental and not a reference to the story’s squid incident 🦑 😂
man of two minds
2 oz black spiced rum*
4 oz ginger beer
1 lime wedge
*for garnish: jalapeno slices
- combine the rum and ginger beer in a glass, and squeeze in the lime wedge
- stir the mixture
- add jalapeno slices and serve with ice
*highly recommend using Kraken rum for your liquor base!
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (2016)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
As we say in Vietnamese: “1, 2, 3, VÔ!” (cheers!) 🍻