Reportes Without Borders announced in December 2016 that 348 journalists were imprisoned worldwide – up six per cent from the previous year. Much of this is due to conditions in Turkey, but this should by no means reassure us. I haven't found any figures on how many writers are imprisoned or persecuted today, but three years ago, the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee had 900 cases on their list. Devoted Thanh Nguyen has not himself been reprimanded for his work, but his background has taught him that there is nothing to be taken for granted, and that the pen is a sword that should be used. When he was young, his family fled from Vietnam to California, and in his second fiction, The Refugees - he tells stories about Vietnamese who made the same journey.
The short stories are about all kinds of people, from a demented professor who addresses his wife by the wrong name, to a pragmatic petty criminal who hides his fake Louis Vuitton bags and Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses in the garage of a man in debt of gratitude. Their dramatic past is seldom retold in long passages, but peeps to the surface. . .
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