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Short Girls: A Novel Hardcover – July 23, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (July 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670020818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670020812
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,258,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The enigmatic first novel from memoirist Nguyen (Stealing Buddha's Dinner) is a detailed character study of second-generation sisters who find themselves more anchored by their Vietnamese heritage than they had realized. Van and Linny Luong, estranged since their childhood in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Mich., return home for their father's American citizenship ceremony. Van, a lifelong goodie-goodie, finds herself abandoned by her husband, while Linny, Van's polar opposite, leaves her married lover once she discovers how he feels about her. Their father, a reluctant tile worker but enthusiastic inventor of devices to improve the lives of short people, provides a perfect diversion for his daughters—he needs them to come with him to Detroit to audition for a TV show. When the audition doesn't go as planned and family secrets start to come out, Linny, Van and Mr. Luong all get a chance to set aside their past failures and find a way to remake themselves. Though not all of the ideas put into play about immigration and immigrant life work themselves out, Nguyen's novel is clever and lively, a fine update to a familiar setup. (July)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Family squabbles and generational conflicts are common themes in Asian American literature. However, most critics felt Nguyen's sense of place (she grew up in Michigan and knows her terrain), as well as her ability to keep the story moving forward even as the narrative hopscotched through time, elevated the work. Several critics noted the novelty of reading about Asian Americans living outside San Francisco or New York. Still, some reviewers felt that everyday details at times bogged down the narrative and that the believability of the characters varied. Despite these complaints, most critics considered Short Girls a very funny, and occasionally sad, exploration of Asian American family dynamics.

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Customer Reviews

Sometimes, the plot twists are just a little too pat.
Jill I. Shtulman
All in all, I would highly recommend this book for interesting, light reading that isn't superficial.
Space Queen
Highly recommended book that will keep entertaining you long after the last page is read.
Jason T. Fetters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By classyglrl on June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bich Minh Nguyen is a breath of fresh air to international women writers. Written in the style of Isabel Allende, but with the flare of Amy Tan, Nguyen does a great job in portraying the daily life struggles young women face in society's inevitable drama, and the life choices they must face, all the while struggling between the internal conflict of who they are raise to become, and what society expects of them, and in the midst? Trying to figure out for themselves what THEY want to be. Regardless of always having to fight the internal conflict of their identity, and the struggle of having two opposing cultures trying to mold them, Nguyen, like most international writer, portrays the pros and cons of either assimilating whole heartedly into mainstream American culture, or simply being culturally pluralistic.

Romance, career, and most importantly family is the driving forces behind the main characters' actions. Nguyen let's us into the minds of her characters, but at the same time, as they withhold their secretive thoughts from their loved ones, Nguyen withholds them from the reader as well, teasing the reader from start to finish.

A great book about what it is like to be culturally pluralistic in modern American society.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Van and Linny Luong are short girls in a tall world -- a distinctly AMERICAN world. When they are young, their father lines them up to record their heights. Early on in the book, he says, "It's not about being tall. It's about being better than taller people. If you not seen as equal you do whatever you can to make equalness happen."

Within these pages, Van and Linny struggle to "make equalness happen." Van escapes from her home through overachieving: she works hard to achieve both at University of Michigan law school, in her ensuing career as a immigration lawyer, and in her young marriage to a well-esconced Chinese American man named Miles. Failure is simply not allowed. Linny, the rebel, takes the opposite tract: she relies on her beauty and sense of fashion to land a job in a catering company and to also land the attractive married husband of one of her customers. But suddenly, they both find themselves on the precipice. Van fails -- for the first time -- on an immigration case as a result of the post 9/11 atmosphere, she miscarries, and her husband leaves her. Linny finds out that her married man is trying for another child; her affair is discovered and she is in danger of losing her job. It is then that both are summoned home by their distant and uninvolved father for his American citizenship ceremony.

In another author's hands, this story might be simply that -- a nicely put-together story. It's a testimony to Bich Minh Nguyen's wizardry that the story becomes a whole lot more. It's about discovering a sense of self in an "other" world that is designed for the majority -- the tall people who know the ropes. It's about how we fit into family -- and community -- fighting to be genuine and to keep our own identity.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jason T. Fetters on August 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a great book. It takes me back to my high school days. Back in 1986, the prettiest girl in the school was Van from Vietnam. I recall talking to a classmate about Van and we talked about dating and I remember him telling me that she would never date outside her race. Her family was very strict about that. She had a sister that she was really close just like Van and Linny.
In 1991 while working at the Home Shopping Network, I met two sisters named Amy and Diane Nguyen. One dated only Asian guys the other dated White guys which was somewhat rare in 1991.
Now in 2009, I went to the movies at Westshore mall in Tampa and most of the couples I saw were Asian girls with White guys. It took maybe 20-years but eventually people get out of their own little boxes and reach out.
It interesting that all the Vietnamese girls I met had sisters they were close to just like in Short Girls. To me this book is like a look at how my past friends lives pretty were. They spoke little about their home lives so this book was like looking through a house window for a peek at what went on inside.
Ok I realize that is a long introduction but hopefully it shades a little light on how I view Short Girls.
First, I love the character Van because she is hardworking, likes to read, ignores her appearance, to an extent, in order to develop her mind. She is the noble character with a big heart who has a hard time trying to succeed.
Then there's her sister Linny, who is outgoing, isn't afraid to expertiment with dating outside her race, fearless, able to drift from one job to the next without coming across as a hapless loser. I admire people like Linny because I'm afraid of that kind of job hopping.
The sisters belong to a bigger family unit in the Luong family.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Yuni on July 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm always excited to read books by new writers and Bich Nguyen debuted with a gem of a read! It chronicles the life and times of a Vietnamese-American immigrant family. It explores the themes of marriage, family, the main character's sisterhood and the relationship with her parents. You don't need to be an immigrant or have a sister to appreciate the nuances and intricacies of Nguyen's writing. I think this story of the ties that bind us speaks to anyone who has experienced solitude, guilt and heartbreak.

I like that we get the stories from the perspectives of the two sisters. I feel like Nguyen writes from experience and her heart, which makes this story so relateable and touching. I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel and can't wait to read more of Nguyen's works!
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