“The literature by Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Americans is out there for anyone who knows how to use Google. But so many here and abroad would rather not know, or when a new Vietnamese author is published, would prefer to say, ‘At last! A voice for the Vietnamese!’ In fact, there are so many voices, for the Vietnamese people are very loud.” Pulitzer Prize winner and Year in Reading alumnus Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer) writes in The New York Times about the diversity of Vietnamese writing, too often ignored in favor of war narratives and the voices of American veterans. (For an incredible syllabus of books to fill in the gaps, see the middle of his piece.)
To celebrate the 80th birthday of Kirkus Reviews, the editorial staff is holding a contest in which the grand prize winner gets a literary tour of New York City. This includes “two round-trip tickets to Manhattan, two nights’ stay at the Library Hotel, two passes to the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl, gift certificates to several of the city’s finest independent bookstores, breakfast at a round table at the Algonquin Hotel, and dinner at Public in SoHo.”
I have an essay in the September issue of Poets & Writers on “The Social Value of MFA Programs.” Sadly, P&W deems the piece too valuable to give away for free on the Web, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to go to your local newsstand and buy a copy.
Writing a novel is an all-consuming project, so can you imagine not telling anyone? At The New York Times, Alice Mattison discusses keeping her novels secrets until at least the third draft. “If I talk about the book, I believe — I cannot help believing — my characters will be angry, and will no longer confide in me about their embarrassing, troubled lives.” On another side of the secrecy spectrum, Emma Straub writes about what it’s like to keep a personal secret even as her literary life was booming.
Kirkus Reviews is launching a new literary prize this year with a hefty purse and an even more eye-catching process. Instead of relying on publishers or judges for a longlist, they’ll automatically nominate any book that wins a Kirkus Star—about 10 percent of those reviewed—and award three annual prizes of $50,000 to the best fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature. But the big news is that self-published books will also be eligible.