Little Saigon Enclaves: Background information when reading The Refugees

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Refugees

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen X
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2017, 224 pages

    Jan 2018, 224 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
Buy This Book

About this Book

Little Saigon Enclaves

This article relates to The Refugees

Print Review

The name "Little Saigon" is often given to an area where there are a large number of people of Vietnamese origin. When The Refugees author Viet Thanh Nguyen arrived in the United States in the mid '70s at the age of four, he lived in a refugee camp and then with a couple of sponsor families in Pennsylvania before being reunited with his own family. For much of his childhood his family lived in San Jose, California, where his parents owned an ethnic grocery store. San Jose and Orange County, California are the largest and oldest Vietnamese communities in the United States, along with Houston, Texas.

Little Saigon Sign in California Orange County is home to an estimated 189,000 Vietnamese-Americans. The city of Garden Grove in Orange County hosts Tết, the annual Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival in late January/early February. Westminster has a number of Vietnamese television and radio stations, and is also the headquarters of a small Vietnamese pop music scene.

San Jose is over 10% Vietnamese-American and has the most Vietnamese residents of any city outside of Vietnam. There has been resistance to the name "Little Saigon," though. For a short time in 2007–8, a City Council vote changed it to "Saigon Business District," but less than six months later, the decision was overturned; the area has not been officially renamed. Two popular Vietnamese restaurant chains, Lee's Sandwiches and Pho Hoa, got their start here. The Viet Museum at History Park (also known as the Museum of the Boat People and the Republic of Vietnam) opened in 2007 after 30 years in the pipeline. Funded by the San Jose nonprofit Immigrant Resettlement & Cultural Center, Inc., the museum is dedicated to the Vietnamese-American experience and to Vietnamese people's different journeys to America.

California also has a high concentration of Vietnamese-Americans in Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, and the San Gabriel Valley. Other U.S. cities with a notable Vietnamese presence include Falls Church, Virginia; Orlando; New Orleans; Atlanta; Oklahoma City; Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; and Seattle. Further afield, Victoria Street in the Melbourne, Australia suburb of Richmond has been dubbed "Little Saigon."

The video below gives a tour of "Little Saigon" in San Jose on the special occasion of Tết, including a peek at the Grand Century Mall, which houses dozens of Vietnamese stores:

Picture of Little Saigon sign by Codobai

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Rebecca Foster

This article relates to The Refugees. It first ran in the March 22, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Red Memory
    Red Memory
    by Tania Branigan
    Tania Branigan's Red Memory is an astounding and often harrowing study of Mao's China. A lead writer...
  • Book Jacket: The Postcard
    The Postcard
    by Anne Berest
    Anne Berest's The Postcard — with an elegant translation from the French by Tina Cover &...
  • Book Jacket
    by Jennifer Saint
    Few cultures in history mastered the art of tragedy quite like the ancient Greeks. And very few ...
  • Book Jacket: Salvage This World
    Salvage This World
    by Michael Farris Smith
    In the near-future universe of Michael Farris Smith's Salvage This World, life-threatening ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Little Italian Hotel
    by Phaedra Patrick

    Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

Y S M Back A I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.