UC Berkeley graduate Viet Thanh Nguyen is this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his debut novel, The Sympathizer, a thriller/political satire about a double-agent who moves to Los Angeles after the Vietnam war.
The Pulitzer committee commended Nguyen’s book as “a layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a ‘man of two minds’ — and two countries, Vietnam and the United States.”
Nguyen and his family came to the United States from Vietnam as refugees in 1975. After a few years in Pennsylvania, they moved to San Jose, California. As a student at UC Berkeley, he received bachelor’s degrees in English and ethnic studies in 1992 and a Ph.D. in English in 1997.
“As an undergrad I studied English and ethnic studies — English, because I loved literature,” he said this week in an interview with the Literary Hub website. “Ethnic studies revealed to me the possibility that literature could matter in terms of politics and social justice.”
Nguyen will give a reading of The Sympathizer at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, in Room 315 of Wheeler Hall. The program is sponsored by UC Berkeley’s English Department.
Nguyen is an associate professor of English, American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative and the Chicago Tribune.
In addition to Nguyen’s prize for fiction, nine other UC Berkeley grads — some of whom cut their journalistic teeth at the Daily Cal — won Pulitzers for news coverage.
The Daily Cal reports that ProPublica senior reporter T. Christian Miller, a 1992 graduate who was a university news editor at the Daily Cal, won a Pulitzer in explanatory reporting for “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.”
And former Daily Cal city news editor Soumya Karlamangla, who graduated in 2013, won for breaking news reporting. She was on the Los Angeles Times team that covered the terror attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino last December.
UC Berkeley grads Rong-Gong Lin II, Javier Panzar, Paloma Esquivel, Lily Mihalik, Evan Wagstaff, Christine Mai-Duc and Christina Bellantoni also contributed to the Los Angeles Times’ San Bernardino shooting coverage.