Quiet As They Come

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Overview

"Heartbreaking tales of ordinary people lost between the extraordinary circumstances of history. Bitter and beautiful all at once."—Sandra Cisneros

"We call it naturalization, but these bright, authentic, well-made stories both personalize and illuminate just how unnatural the first twenty years in America felt for thousands of Vietnamese families who fled to San Francisco to escape the Vietnam War. Angie Chau writes with humor, intensity and forgiveness about lives full of danger, insult, momentary reprieve, ...

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Quiet As They Come

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Overview

"Heartbreaking tales of ordinary people lost between the extraordinary circumstances of history. Bitter and beautiful all at once."—Sandra Cisneros

"We call it naturalization, but these bright, authentic, well-made stories both personalize and illuminate just how unnatural the first twenty years in America felt for thousands of Vietnamese families who fled to San Francisco to escape the Vietnam War. Angie Chau writes with humor, intensity and forgiveness about lives full of danger, insult, momentary reprieve, unending tenacity and undying hope."—Pam Houston

"Quiet As They Come is a beautifully rendered, intimate, and dramatic story of family and country. Each character is drawn with such honesty and generosity, such insight and imagination. Angie Chau has impressed and enthralled me and I was very sorry to come to the last page."—Karen Joy Fowler

Quiet As They Come announces the arrival of an astonishing literary talent with a great deal to say about the intricacies of family life, coming of age, emigration, and—above and—above all—the treasures buried in the human heart.”—Carolina De Robertis, author of The Invisible Mountain

Quiet As They Come is a beautiful and at times brutal portrait of a people caught between two cultures. Set in San Francisco from the 1980s to the present day, this debut collection explores the lives of several families of Vietnamese immigrants as they struggle to adjust to life in their new country, often haunted by the memories and customs of their old lives in Vietnam. While some are able to survive and assimilate, others are crushed by the promise of the "American Dream." No matter their fate, you will never be able to forget the people you meet in this remarkable collection.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Serenely stirring stories from Vietnamese-American Chau track the breaking asunder of an extended Vietnamese boat family newly arrived in California in the 1970s. Fleeing the Vietcong and relocated to San Francisco, the family of aunts, uncles, and cousins has assumed catchy Western names like Sophia (Loren) and Marcel (Marcello Mastroianni), harboring many secrets in their bewildering new life in America. In "Hunger," the troupe of cousins gather their pennies and heads for the pool on July 4, braving verbal abuse from a hostile white neighbor while sharing a single slice of pizza. In "The Pussycats" a young mother, Kim, whose soldier husband, Duc, is imprisoned in Saigon, mistakenly takes her daughter to a porn flick with the title of a children's movie, setting in motion sexual desire for a married friend in her ESL class. Duc shows up after 10 years, in "Taps," as a hollowed-out victim of torture and trauma, now grievously unrecognizable. Well intentioned but misunderstood ("as quiet as they come"), Chau's characters, in portraits that radiate dignity and depth, seek freedom but find crushing loneliness. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"Angie Chau's fine collection of stories does for immigrants from South Vietnam what Jhumpa Lahiri did for East Indians or Junot Diaz did for people from the Dominican Republic. She tells their truth."—Dallas Morning News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935439189
  • Publisher: Ig Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 833,562
  • Product dimensions: 8.26 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author


Angie Chau was born in Vietnam and has since lived on three continents and an island. She graduated with a master's degree in creative writing from the University of California, Davis where she also taught undergraduate fiction and was the fiction editor for The Greenbelt Review. She has been awarded a Hedgebrook Residency and a Macondo Foundation Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Indiana Review, Santa Clara Review, Slant, and the anthology, Cheers to Muses. In 2009, she won the UC Davis Maurice Prize in Fiction.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 8, 2010

    An Unassuming Tour De Force

    Aching and rewarding, quiet and stunning like a slow Bach cello suite in minor, Quiet As They Come is gorgeous and painful at once. The language is simple and straightforward, yet is often more poetry than prose. It is matter of fact, as it transports us to the deep inner lives of dignified people experiencing indignities and surprises in a new culture, a new land where "up" is now being called "down". This is the story of a family that fled the Viet Cong after the fall of Saigon and came to America, as did Angie Chau herself at the age of three.

    The book is a collection of stories. Each winds it's way along with a simmering tension, taut and rich, before rising to a swift Beethovian crescendo. Each is like a bottle of champagne that you study slowly and thoughtfully before finally popping the cork with a bang and a sudden rush. Like the protagonists, the writing style walks softly but carries a big stick. It is more resonant for its lack of flowery embellishment.

    From story to story, the point of view changes to different members of the family. The writing style changes to suit each character. In the first story, "Hunger", Chau deftly captures the way a child sees and processes the world:

    "The house is big and old. There are lots of hidden closets and corners and secrets inside. Like how we have to step over my dad when we go to the bathroom at night, but come morning we have to pretend he was never sleeping in the hallway. My name is Elle. It's not my real name. That's kind of a secret too."

    "No one at school knows it's my fake name. My parents changed it so I would fit better. Sometimes I wonder if they'll change my last name too. And if they do, what will become of the old me? The Vietnamese name with the two letters that match like your favorite pair of socks."

    Much later in the book, when we meet Elle as a teenager into rock and roll, riding in a fast car with her friend and her friend's musician father, the language is musical and rhythmic right from the start. It's more like spoken word, or Beat Generation:

    "On the Fourth of July we glide through the winding roads of Mt. Tam with the top down. Tree tops sway and leaves shimmer like tinsel when the moon hits just right. Over the railing the Pacific Coast is as placid as a lake tonight. But still Stan puts the music loud. He's a jazz musician. He plays trumpet. He's deaf in one ear from his years next to a speaker."

    The book is often creatively symbolic. Both of these Elle stories take place on the Fourth of July, the symbol of American freedom. The meaning is whatever you make it, but Elle is the only character who was young enough to truly assimilate in this country.

    This collection is a study in the contradictions that make people interesting. In "Hunger", it's the vulnerability and strength of an eight year old refugee spending the day in an American city without her parents. In "Everything Forbidden", about the stern matriarch of the family, it's a look at love versus smothering dominance.

    Her alter ego in the book, Elle, talks about the sleepovers she used to have at her best friend Phoebe's house during high school, and how inspirational Phoebe's musician father was. As a teenager, Elle already wants to be a writer, scrawling poems on pizza boxes, whatever paper surface is available. Elle's father tells her she should become a doctor, an engineer

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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