THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This narrator is very Hamlet-esque. He takes action all the time but there are also mad intricate thoughts behind everything. It’s as if he’s not savage enough to just bulldoze through situations like others seem to do. And he also literally double thinks everything because he’s a double agent during the Vietnam War. He’s a communist-socialist working among the anti-communist south. So all his moves actually support the revolution. He leaks information using invisible ink in his letters, he travels between Vietnam and the U.S. as needed, he kills if he has to. So, like Hamlet, he’ll follow through, but he also notices again and again that he’s kinda just a pawn a body a person–whatever that means.

I loved the stuff about his mother the best. It was so pure and genuine amid so much chaos and despair. His memories of the way she reassured him even as others rejected him for being biracial or for being the son of a young woman who got pregnant by a predatory church guy. The way he honors her death by essentially reburying her at this film set graveyard thing–oh, that’s another way he’s a double agent. He takes on a lil side mission in the Philippines where he assists in the production of a Hollywood film about the recently ended war. He’s there to make it more accurate, and he also tries to get speaking parts for Vietnamese characters (played by non-Vietnamese people) and tries to get them more money too. But, ultimately, the representation is empty because it feeds right back into pro-American ideals.

Throughout all his experiences, he notices how he’s not the only one with a doubled identity. He sees Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. go from doctors to store clerks. Delivery men who used to be ruthless soldiers. Upper-class wives turned chefs. Who you really are is always up in the air when your country is the site of international conflict.

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