Viet Thanh Nguyen rewinds the film of his own life. He expands the genre of personal memoir by acknowledging larger stories of refugeehood, colonization, and ideas about Vietnam and America, writing with his trademark sardonic wit and incisive analysis, as well as a deep emotional openness about his life as a father and a son.
An artfully intertwined medley of Nguyen's essays, lectures and interviews, A Man of Two Faces...is an innovative expose of the racism that shackles refugee populations of color to harmful stereotypes ... Not everything in the book is dire and grim ... A provocative and dynamic family portrait of America's immigrants, shining a light on the humanity too few of us see.
It’s a lot of terrain to cover, and the stretches of impersonal polemic are just that — so unspecific they risk banality ... Revelations offer little we don’t already know ... If Nguyen intended this as a memoir not so much of what happened as of how it felt, it turns out that in the past decade he has felt a lot of the same things the rest of America has, too ... Nguyen never acknowledges the possibility that even within this book, he dilutes the pain of personal experience: Those passages of well-worn social observation can feel like a retreat from self-examination into the safer distance of generality.
Formally audacious ... Forsaking a traditional prose format for discrete paragraph-length chunks of text set apart with line breaks, Nguyen occasionally aligns alternating paragraphs left and right to mimic a dialogue between opposing voices ... Sharp and affecting, this book is both: a weapon, a lamentation.