2004 Association of Asian American Studies Book Award

2005 Asian American Literary Awards in Fiction

Notable Book
2005 Kiriyama Prize

Compelling, moving, and beautifully written, the interlinked stories that make up We Should Never Meet alternate between Saigon before the city’s fall in 1975 and present-day “Little Saigon” in Southern California — exploring for us the reverberations of the Vietnam War in a completely new light.

Intersecting the lives of eight characters across three decades and two continents, these stories each surround the events of Operation Babylift, the emergency evacuation of 2,000 Vietnamese and Amerasian orphans from Vietnam under the executive order of President Gerald Ford just weeks before the fall of Saigon. Unwitting reminders of the war, these children were considered “bui doi,” the dust of life, and faced an uncertain, dangerous existence if left behind in Vietnam.

Four of the stories follow the saga of one orphan’s journey from the points-of-view of his teenage mother, a duck farmer from the Mekong Delta, a social worker in Saigon, and a volunteer doctor from America. The other four take place 20 years later and chronicle the lives of four Vietnamese orphans now living in America: Kim, an embittered Amerasian girl searching for her unknown mother; Vinh, her gang member ex-boyfriend who preys on Vietnamese families to rob; Mai, an ambitious orphan who faces her emancipation from the American foster care system; and Huan, an Amerasian adopted by a white family, who returns to Vietnam with adoptive mother.

Powerful and completely original, We Should Never Meet is a truly exceptional debut by a new major writer for our time.

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