Owner of a Lonely Heart: A Memoir

Scribner. Jul. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781982196349. $27. MEMOIR
American Book Award winner Nguyen (author of the memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner) returns with a memoir focused on settling in Michigan after her family fled Vietnam during the war, when Nguyen was an infant. She also describes growing up without her mother, who either stayed or was left behind in Vietnam; the author is unsure which. After 10 years, her mother relocated to the U.S. as a refugee, but it took nearly another decade for mother and daughter to reunite in spite of the author’s efforts to make it happen sooner. Nguyen candidly discusses the fear and hardship that refugees face, using the experiences of her father and uncles to bolster her narrative. Her own experiences as a “once-refugee” growing up in Michigan are also explored, sometimes in heartbreaking detail. Simple things—having a legal and an actual birthday, for example—and difficulty reconnecting with her mother after becoming a mother herself show the pain of family fragmentation.
VERDICT Nguyen’s honesty and vulnerability will captivate readers instantly. Highly recommended for all libraries.
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