A Letter from Viet Thanh Nguyen

Dear Reader,

You and I have something in common. Two or three things, actually. We love books. We love reading. And we love libraries.

My relationship to libraries started young. Some of my earliest, best memories are of a small public library in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, circa 1977. I was a refugee and had arrived in the United States only a couple of years before. I knew no English, but somehow acquired it very quickly. By 1977, I could read, and I remember no greater pleasure than visiting the public library, borrowing as many books as I could, and returning home to be immersed in them.

Then my family moved to San Jose, California, and my love affair with the public library deepened and grew. My parents worked constantly, and left by myself for many hours, I chose the San Jose public library as my second home. I spent every Saturday there and won my first book award, sponsored by the library, for a third-grade effort titled “Lester the Cat.” It’s safe to say that I would not have become the writer that I am without the public library, which first and foremost made me a reader.

I’m sure you all have your own stories of libraries and falling in love with reading. And there’s more than reading, of course. Movies, music, Internet, Legos, author events like the ALOUD series, and many more are provided by the Los Angeles Public Library. Some of these things would not be possible without your support. That’s what I am asking you for on the occasion of the 30th Annual Stay Home and Read a Book Ball.

Staying home and reading a book is one of the easiest things to do. Find something good to read, but before you get lost in it, please think of everything libraries may have given you. Perhaps you might give something to our library as well.

Your fellow reader,

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative, and the Chicago Tribune and he is the author of the academic book Race and Resistance. His first novel, The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. His newest nonfiction book, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War was published in April 2016. He teaches English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His current book is the bestselling short story collection, The Refugees. Most recently he has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, and le Prix du meilleur livre étranger (Best Foreign Book in France), for The Sympathizer.