Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Quiet As They Come Paperback – August 17, 2010
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Serenely stirring stories from Vietnamese-American Chau track the breaking asunder of an extended Vietnamese boat family newly arrived in California in the 1970s. Fleeing the Vietcong and relocated to San Francisco, the family of aunts, uncles, and cousins has assumed catchy Western names like Sophia (Loren) and Marcel (Marcello Mastroianni), harboring many secrets in their bewildering new life in America. In "Hunger," the troupe of cousins gather their pennies and heads for the pool on July 4, braving verbal abuse from a hostile white neighbor while sharing a single slice of pizza. In "The Pussycats" a young mother, Kim, whose soldier husband, Duc, is imprisoned in Saigon, mistakenly takes her daughter to a porn flick with the title of a children's movie, setting in motion sexual desire for a married friend in her ESL class. Duc shows up after 10 years, in "Taps," as a hollowed-out victim of torture and trauma, now grievously unrecognizable. Well intentioned but misunderstood ("as quiet as they come"), Chau's characters, in portraits that radiate dignity and depth, seek freedom but find crushing loneliness.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
The story depicts the life of Vietnamese immigrant Viet Tran, a Postal Clerk who had been a University professor within his homeland of Vietnam holding a PhD in Philosophy and a law degree with aspirations of being a Chancellor of a University, but his livelihood would be interrupted as a result of the results of the Vietnam War. He along with his wife and daughter were among the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who would escape the ravages left by the war to start a new life in the United States. However, before the shed of hope would come to light, they would encounter struggles and the fears on the boat that would show the depravity and impoverishment of those around them, and how the experience would still greatly affect Viet Tran with the traumatic flashbacks that show remnants of the unhealed wounds.
Readers will get a glimpse of how perceptions play an important part in terms of looking at the world and the community. And the adage that there is always two sides to a story, rings true for this particular book, especially if one also adds the sociological significance along with the historical backdrop; for those who are familiar with the film "Crash" and other film or literary depictions involving one's personal account that revolves around race relations and the effects of immigration on a person and community, this particular story may have fit quite well within those depictions.
Viet Tran was known by his friends in Vietnam as a quiet man of letters; co-workers consider him a hard worker and great listener. Viet is a slight, unimposing figure who prefers to maintain a low profile. Viet works through tai chi to help control his emotions. But behind his quiet façade are roiling emotions with memories he tries to forget. When a co-worker shows disrespect towards Viet's young daughter the man has no idea what demons he may awaken.
Quiet As They Come is just one short story from the collection of stories about the lives of Vietnamese immigrants trying to adjust in San Francisco in the 1980s. This was a pleasant surprise! It is just a short story but packed with a lot of life experience and emotional depth. Chau portrays her character with depth and dignity. Based on the surprising smoothness and depth of this one book, I expect that the full collection would be wonderfully engaging and insightful.
Angie Chau's gem is best described as a literature equivalent to a great CD that can be listened to at any given order, front to back, back to front, middle to front to back, until the whole thing wears out and I have to buy a new copy (or go digital, which I eventually had the brains to do). At a mere south of 200 pages, I've lost count of how many times I've read through it, although in all honesty, it always feels like the first time because each story presents a different discovery upon re-reading. The book is a prism between very complex and well-written characters and Chau sculpts them so well that within one reading I'll love and then resent them and then love them again. One of her characters named Sophia, for instance, was painted in one story as a slut and narrow-minded girl, but near the end, not because she changed but because the narration changed, the reader comes to see her as a loving and strong person. Is she a slut or a girl who found strength despite a father figure? The answer is both. I thought Sophia would be my least favorite character — she ended up being my favorite.
In some ways, they are real people.
As a native of Houston, where a majority of the Asian population are Vietnamese, it's impossible to be Asian here and not make Vietnamese friends, date Vietnamese girls and meet their families. But it wasn't until this book that I realized all the things that they hinted at, all the details I didn't think much about were now pieced together to me in Quiet As They Come. I can recall many Vietnamese people I've known who had war imprisoned fathers they've never met. It's also interesting that the characters frequently divorce — something I find consistent with a lot of Vietnamese women from that generation (in contrast, Chinese women rarely ever divorce). Moreover, the book never loses its reminder that it is American. The most underrated chapter, "Silver Stars", captures this aspects the most.
It's easy to see how, on the surface, Quiet As They Come may appear to be the Vietnamese-American version of The Joy Luck Club. They both are a collection of short stories that are defined by different points of views. They also end with the "main" characters revisiting their home lands. But such comparisons are superficial at best, lazy at worst. Quiet As They Come has its own style and meanings. It's also the most beautiful book I've come across in modern Asian-American literature — and with an ending that resulted in someone taking a dump on the picture of a Buddha baby, that's saying a lot.