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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Move over Allende and Tan!
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...
Published on June 9, 2009 by classyglrl

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3.0 out of 5 stars Another perspective on the immigrant experience for two sisters
Bich Minh Nguyen's SHORT GIRLS is an interesting, perceptive look at life for the daughters of two immigrants. While Linny bucked against their traditional Vietnamese upbringing, wearing colorful clothing, making many friends and acting "like a white girl," Van folded in on herself -- studying constantly; applying to law school; blending in as best she could in small-town...
Published on August 24, 2010 by Megan


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Move over Allende and Tan!, June 9, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Short On Charm, August 29, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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. It's about how the world changes for the immigrant after 9/11. And it's about forging new relationships with siblings, aging parents, and most of all, ourselves.

It is not a perfect novel. The relationship between Van and Miles, while very interesting, sometimes teeters into a form of disbelief. Would any husband be so cold after his wife's first professional failure, blaming her for the outcome? What was the attraction on his end to begin with if he wanted perfection? Sometimes, the plot twists are just a little too pat. But overall, this was an enjoyable read and a rare look into Vietnamese-American culture. I recommend it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart Warming Tale of Love and Identity, August 20, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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. The father is the wacky inventor who hides away from society in his basement lab working on things that are laughed at by some and admired by others. The mother is hardworking who manages to keep the family going by providing a much needed income. The Luong family is typical of a Vietnamese family in some ways and vastly different in others. The Luongs are a wonderfully created paradox that goes along with the paradox of the father and his inventions that either work or not depending on how you look at it.
The story has moments of humor and the normal pains of everyday life that make it universal. It also contains differences from cultural, economical, and height perspectives that taken together create a unique look at immigration in the US.
Van, the hardworking lawyer is going through a difficult time with her husband Miles. She did everything right like exceling in school, getting into law school, and finding a good job with immigration. Yet no matter how hard she tries things don't go her way or seem to work out at all.
Then you have Linny, caught up in an affair with a married man, working as a low salaried cook for ready made family dinners. She needs to stop the affair but that's not likely to happen easily forcing her into difficult situations that spin out of control.
The story has its most heart warming moments as Linny and Van think about their mother and how she kept the entire house going despite whatever circumstances arise.
I never really thought about what it means to be an immigrant until I found myself in a similar situation when I lived in Japan. That feeling of always being the outsider, of not fitting it, of being a gaijin.
When I returned home to Florida I realized all the things in the US that I had taken for granted that changed my perspective on people and how to relate to people from different countries.
Short Girls takes on the identity issues and shows how each family member deals with them. Linny and Van are both US citizens by birth. The mother through naturalization and the father refuses to go along. Yet, despite whether they wish to be citizens or not, they all contribute something useful in their own ways to America making it a greater country through their efforts.
It takes a multicultural background to make the US exciting and different.
Bich Minh Nguyen does a beautiful job of crafting realistic, flaw people that all have different stories to tell. This is a book rich in details and a microscope into the human condition and it goes beyond mere ethnic boundaries to show how people really are and that no matter what your background is, in the end, we all want the same things. We just use different methods to get results like Mr. Luong of Luong Inventions.
Highly recommended book that will keep entertaining you long after the last page is read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching, delightful, heart-rending read!, July 8, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Business (written for [...]), August 20, 2009
By 
Emily Decobert "Ms. Librarian" (Mortons Gap, KY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
`You pick your friends and you pick your enemies, but your family you're stuck with.' I don't remember who said that bit of wisdom or if he was famous, but it is a saying I've heard all my life. By the time most of us become adults we find that it is true. No matter where we wander, it's very hard to dismiss those first eighteen years. That is the topic of this book, Short Girls.
Van and Linny Long are a set of sisters who find themselves estranged from both each other and their Vietnamese heritage. Their parents emigrated from Vietnam but they were born and grew up in America, finding it difficult to relate to their parents from such a different culture.
They also find it difficult to relate to each other. As small children they were close, but as they grew up conflicting identities emerged. Van was the studious one and the perfect daughter, always eager to please. She went to college, married well, and appeared to have a perfect life. Linny was the more social and most American, losing the ability to speak or understand Vietnamese and dropping out of college.
The sisters come back together to celebrate their father finally becoming an American citizen, both interrupted from crises in their own life. Van's husband has left her and Linny's affaire with a married man is ending badly. Both are shaky and fragile and in need of each other now that they are so alone. Though the hardships they begin to realize how valuable their sister is.
This story is a wonderful tale of immigrants' children and the struggle to be both of the Old World and America. Both Van and Linny walk a sort of tight rope, trying to balance between honoring their ancestral culture and being modern as well. Neither is very successful at first. Van tries to remember her roots by using her law degree to help other immigrants. She tries to play the perfect Asian daughter and breaks when the façade crumbs.
Linny tries to be totally a hip American, but she can not forget the past and finds solace in cooking. She is the daughter who can cook the Vietnamese recipes taught by her mother.
Very like The Joy Luck Club, it is a tale of two women who are trying to be American while struggling against their mother's memory and the expectations of their Vietnamese heritage.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars solid storyline and characters, July 24, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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This was a surprisingly good, quick read. I really enjoyed the story, and the characters were interesting and well-developed. I liked how the author was able to believably create a story where two very distinct sister characters come together to help each other through crisis situations. Moreover, these characters were strong yet vulnerable, flawed but likeable. Overall, the story felt very balanced. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Study of Family Relations, August 20, 2009
By 
Xoe Li Lu "xoelilu" (Sea Girt, New Jersey USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Bich Minh Nguyen's second book, Short Girls, is a superbly written story of family relations and obligation that explores the dichotomy between two sisters, Linny and Van, who are polar opposites, yet disarmingly similar at the same time. Both sisters struggle with the various relationships in their lives and both maintain a certain level of insecurity rooted in their shared childhood experiences. The author does an excellent job of letting the reader into the lives of her characters: I feel as if I know exactly how the sisters look, what their homes and workplaces look like, and even how they might behave in certain situations, all due to Nguyen's expertly rendered (but never overwrought or over-done) prose. The underlying current of the story centers on the sister's helpless father, Dinh Luong, and his ongoing struggle to assimilate into the culture of the country he emigrated to almost 30 years earlier from Viet Nam. The story is enveloping as it explores situations many of us have experienced - marital problems, family discord, cultural assimilation and identity, the search for one's place in life - through the eyes of pretty, ne'er do well Linny and studious, conscientious Van. Both Linny and Van grow as the story progresses and each are able to achieve a measure of security and purpose as they learn to use the relationships and live experiences to help them live fuller, happier lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolutely Delightful Book, July 2, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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I thoroughly enjoyed Bich Minh Nguyen's book "Short Girls." (Thanks to the publisher for providing a phonetic pronunciation of Nguyen's name.) It was an easy, engrossing read... that I read over the course of a day. I love novels that give me a window into a culture or time that I don't know a lot about. "Short Girls" takes one into the Vietnamese-American community... both the first generation who came over in the 70s and their children. The two main characters are sisters Van and Linny. Van is the overachieving eldest daughter. Linny is the free-living younger sister--not very serious about her career or relationships. They have drifted apart, and are brought together by Van's husband's leaving her as well as their father's, the aspiring Vietnamese Ron Popeil, naturalization party. The sisters help each other to find themselves and focus on their passions. I really enjoyed the sister's relationship... it is so well written. I also appreciated that Linny's value was known--even though she wasn't the stereotypical engineer, doctor/dentist, or lawyer.

I was an easy breezy read--thoroughly enjoyable. My only wish would have been some recipes to go with the delicious dishes Linny makes. Oh well, luckily Amazon has Vietnamese cookbooks as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT, engrossing book, September 10, 2009
This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
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This is the kind of book that I'd gladly sacrifice sleep for, and as a mom of a toddler, that's VERY rare for me.

"Short Girls" is an engrossing and very readable book about two sisters (Van and Linny) struggling to find their place in a world that is both completely familiar to them (having been born and raised in the US) but also very alien (their parents were Vietnamese refugees, and never quite felt "at home" in America). Both Van and Linny deal with challenges familiar to *all* women- complicated relationships with significant others, trouble at work, "fitting in" in a world in which supermodels are considered "the average woman", etc. To further complicate things, Van and Linny must also contend with the expectations placed on them by their father (who never quite was able to grasp his own "American Dream") and the Vietnamese community in which they grew up in.

When I read some reviews comparing Nguyen's writing to Amy Tan's, it made me a bit nervous because I've never been able to get into Tan's books. I shouldn't have worried.

As someone who stayed up most of last night reading "Short Girls", I can honestly say I really enjoyed this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written page turner, September 7, 2009
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This review is from: Short Girls: A Novel (Hardcover)
I was surprised at how I wanted to find out what was going to happen to the characters from one chapter to the next. The action is very unpredictable. In the hands of another writer, the lives of these characters would quickly lose the reader's interest. I am not an immigrant and not a woman, yet I found the story line to be fascinating. The novel is more than just a good read or a good story. It provides much insight into our own lives, family realtionships, and personalities.
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Short Girls: A Novel
Short Girls: A Novel by Bich Minh Nguyen (Hardcover - July 23, 2009)
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