COEUR d’ALENE — Growing up as a refugee who fled to the United States in 1975 to escape the Vietnam War, Viet Thanh Nguyen knows all too well what it's like to live with feet in two worlds.
His Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel, "The Sympathizer," paints a complex picture of what it means to live in both worlds and the difficulties one faces when all sides are visible and the lines between loyalties are blurred. The Pulitzer Prize citation reads: "[The Sympathizer] is a layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a 'man of two minds' — and two countries, Vietnam and the United States."
"Obviously, issues dealing with immigration are always at the forefront, but particularly as of late," said Idaho Humanities Council executive director David Pettyjohn. "This notion of immigration and welcoming people who have different ideas and different perspectives only makes our region richer."
Nguyen will be the honored speaker at the Idaho Humanities Council's 16th annual North Idaho Distinguished Humanities Lecture at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in The Coeur d'Alene Resort. Nguyen, the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and a professor of English, American studies and ethnicity and comparative literature at the University of Southern California, will speak on "Refugee Stories and American Greatness."
In his youth, Nguyen began to notice that most films and books about the Vietnam War told the American story while the Vietnamese were silenced and erased. This lack of representation inspired him to give the Vietnamese people a voice and offer a whole other side to what was thought to be known about the war.
"His voice is so respected, and he'll be presenting some of the era of our past from a side we don't traditionally hear from," Pettyjohn said. "Having him here, engaging in that discourse will only add to the level of civility that we promote."
Tickets to the lecture and dinner are $65. Benefactor tickets are $130. The evening will begin with a reception and silent auction at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. with Nguyen's talk to follow.
Buy tickets at www.idahohumanities.org or by calling 208-345-5346.