Cover Image: Dust Child

Dust Child

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Another stunning historical fiction. I love this author for creating incredible characters that I connect with and can’t wait to read more about

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'Dust Child’ is a novel beautifully written by Nguyen Phan Que Mai. I thought Que Mai did an excellent job of portraying the brutal reality of the Vietnam war, for everyone involved. The story is in turns heartbreaking and uplifting. I loved it and can't wait to read more of Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s work. Do stay tuned for the Author’s Note at the end where Que Mai talks about her process and further resources, should you wish to read more about the themes within the book.

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Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has done it again, what a fantastic read this is. I devoured it in 24 hours...which isn't easy with a 3 month old! That's how gripping it was!

After absolutely loving The Mountains Sing, I was so excited to read this next novel and it certainly met my expectations. 

The story centres around the children of Vietnamese women and American soldiers during the war - known as Amerasian, a term I hadnt heard before. They were known as 'children of the dust', seen as illegitimate and associated with the enemy. 

This is a very emotive novel which gently educates on the history of the Vietnam war and the legacy it has left for all involved. Because of the clever way the plot is designed, we learn about the impact of the war on the women, the men and the children.

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is certainly on my list of favourite authors, can't wait to read the next one!

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Multi-point-of-view story from the perspectives of an American GI, a teenage girl, and a mixed heritage (Black and Vietnamese) Amerasian man during and after the "Vietnam War".

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai crafts an intricate, twisty, messy set of narratives that join up in ways I was not prepared for. Themes include guilt, shame, PTSD, anti-Blackness, anti-Asian hate, war, sexism, sex work, poverty, border and immigration politics.

So rich in telling this achingly sad story in which none of the characters win. A must read for colleagues and students interested in Miss Saigon.

Easily one of my books of the year.

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Such an interesting book and the authors note at the end explained why. Having done so much research this was guaranteed to lead to a detailed story. It felt like being right inside what was happening.
It was good to have the chapters split between times and characters as this gave a nice rounded view.

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Another FANTASTIC novel from Nguyen Phan Que Mai. She writes exquisitely of Vietnam and its people - having lived in Vietnam, I always feel like I'm transported back when I read her novels <3

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I’d like to thank NetGalley and Bolinda audio for approving me for an ARC of this book.

🪷Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war we are given a story that is not only beautiful but devastating too.

😢It’s impossible not to shed a tear or two when reading this. Whilst the characters are entirely fictional you know that the story is based on real events and many faced these awful circumstances.

⌛The multiple POVs and switching between past and present gave the story the pace it needed. Whilst I had figured out some of the end results I was still left with one or two surprising twists at the end.

⭐Overall this story will give you many perspectives of not just the Vietnam war but the aftermath too. It will show the devastation, turmoil and hope they all faced whilst giving you characters to root for. A truly emotional book filled with a lot of heart.

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I ran out of time to read this before the archive date, but I was fully gripped by the opening on the book and the overall premise. I plan to purchase the book and finish reading it, as I think it’ll be a great read!

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Powerful, beguiling novel.
This book is so well written, there are three main story lines, the first one is about Phong a Amerasian left as a newborn at an orphanage, second one is about two sisters Trang and Quynh who gt work in a bar to help their parents get out of debt, thirdly Dan, a war veteran and his wife Linda, who go to Saigon for a holiday, but Dans underlying purpose is to find his child.
The story is gripping leading one to believe Dan is the father of Phong, there is a breathtaking moment when they meet, but this leads to disappointment on both sides.
The sisters are well bought up and revere their parents who have got themselves into debt, when a friend suggests they accompany her into the city to get work they go with her only to find it is bar work entertaining American G.I.s, the only real money they can make is by accompanying men to private rooms. Although at first Quynh the older one is more sensible, she falls in love with Dan and moves into an apartment with him. The pressures of the war start to take their toll on Dan and he gets moody and violent. When Quynh reveals that she is pregnant he leaves her.
Phong applies for a visa to go to America, but is refused, he want to go to find his Father and for a better life for his children, he talks to Dan and Linda but refuses their money at first before getting to know them better.
This is a story of sadness, hope, racism and war. It has made me keen to find out more of the background to the war.
Thank you Nguyen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this excellent book.

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I adored The Mountains Sing so it was great to read more from this author. This book was so rich in detail, for both the characters and location. A really beautiful and memorable read.

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This book is very interesting and gives a great insight into people's lives in Vietnam during the war and afterwards. Very upsetting at the treatment and abuse suffered.

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This sweeping novel is a rich tapestry of stories, deftly woven together into a shimmering whole by this extraordinarily talented author. In 1969, sisters Trang and Quỳnh have chosen to leave their rural village to find work in Sai Gon and support their parents: warily, they decide to become bar girls, flirting and eventually sleeping with American soldiers for tips, slowly eroding their strongly-held sense of morality. In 2016, veteran helicopter pilot Dan is visiting Vietnam with his wife and childhood sweetheart Linda, supposedly on a trip to experience the country he was deployed to as a young soldier and hopefully ease the PTSD he’s been experiencing ever since. Secretly, he’s planning to somehow track down Kim, a bar girl who he fell in love with and lived with while stationed in the country – and perhaps Kim’s child, who he abandoned, along with Kim, upon learning of the pregnancy. Alongside Dan’s modern day tale we meet Phong, the son of a Vietnamese woman and a Black American soldier: abandoned by both his parents, looked down on by Vietnamese society, and desperately trying to navigate an unsympathetic system in the hope of a new chance in America for him and his young family. The book’s title is a reference to bụi đời – meaning "dusty life” or “life of dust" or "dusty life" – and refers to the mixed race children born during and after the Vietnam War. As the narratives unfold, we learn how the characters enmesh, and start to get a glimpse of the true cost of war as it ripples down the generations. A stunning, unmissable read.

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An absolutely beautiful read! The descriptions of place and time made me feel like I had been transported there. The characters were also beautifully written and I was so invested in the storyline. Thank you so much for this arc

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This book absolutely blew me away. The Mountains Sing has been on my shelf for a while and I keep putting it off because I've heard such amazing things I was worried I would be let down. After reading Dust Child I have absolutely no fear I will be let down.

In 1969 two sisters leave their rural village with the hope of earning enough money in Sài Gòn. They don't quite get the job their parents thought they would. Instead they are flirting with American soldiers in a bar, but at least after a short while their parents will be sorted for life.

We then enter 2016, with two synchronized time lines. The first of Phong, he is the son of an American Soldier and a Vietnamese women who worked in one of the bars similar to the two sisters. The second follows Dan and his wife Linda. Dan was stationed in Vietnam during the 60s and has been struggling with PTSD since. Linda thought a way to help him would be to revisit, little does Linda know that Dan was one of the American soldiers who had a child whilst in Vietnam. There is also added timelines as all characters reflect on the past.

We follow the main three timelines throughout the book, jumping between the two present ones and the 1969 timeline. *Small spoiler* Throughout the book I thought the story was really obvious, however this took away none of the beauty of the story. Without giving too much away I was wrong
*spoiler over*.

The way that the story was written made me so invested in all of the characters. The jumps between timelines worked in such a way that I was always desperate to keep reading because at least one timeline was left with a question unanswered. I thought the timeline of Dan and Linda was beautiful for allowing me to visualize Vietnam, as Linda sees everything for the first time I was able to imagine I was also seeing it (it's also made me desperate to actually visit). Alongside the lavish time they are having we examine the poverty and hardship that Phong has faced in life due to the discrimination in Vietnam against Americasians. The 1969 storyline also enabled us to examine the war through different perspectives and link this back to present day.

I hope I have been able to do this beautiful book enough justice. You must pick it up when it comes out. I will definitely be picking myself up a physical copy as this is definitely a book I will be returning to.

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I absolutely loved this book! So well written with memorable characters and stories. It made me laugh and cry and opened my eyes to a part of history I didn’t know much about. I would definitely recommend for fans of historical fiction.

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A beautiful, haunting story following the Vietnam war. Many Vietnamese girls were abandoned pregnant as the US military deployed. Phong is one of these children known as a Dust Child because of his Vietnamese and African American mixed race.

A back story follows sisters Trang and Quỳnh who travel from their small village to Sài Gòn and take jobs as bar girls drinking with American GI’s,

Dan and his wife Linda about to embark on a journey to Vietnam, where they hope Dan can recover from the PTSD that plagues him following his duty. He privately wants to find a girl he left pregant and reconcile with the guilt he has carried.

Beautifully written evoking many emotions this is a wonderful read.

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It is super satisfying when you get to the end of a book and you’ve not only learnt about human experiences you had no idea about, but you also feel moved and connected to the characters and deeply care about their lives.

Dust Child tells the story of Amerasians, the children of Vietnamese women and American servicemen following a dual timeline. In 1969 sisters Trang and Quynh travel to Saigon to raise money to help their parents after their father is injured in the war. In 2016 Linda brings her war veteran husband Dan back to Vietnam in the hope it might help him address his trauma.

Nguyen Phan Que Mai has talked about her desire to decolonise literature about Vietnam and to tell real stories without the politics of the victor. I think she’s done this hugely well. The story she has told is breathtakingly sad and painful, it is nuanced and intricate, and she has weaved Vietnamese literature and poetry into the text beautifully. So beautifully that I feel sad I can’t use the proper language to describe names and places.

I highly recommend this wonderful book, inspired by the authors extensive interviews with Amerasians and war veterans.

Thank you to netgalley for the advanced readers copy.

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‘Dust Child’ is a novel that examines the trauma of the Vietnam War both in the immediate but also in the long lasting ripple effects of those directly involved as well as their families and wider communities. Divided into three main story lines of a young girl who finds herself working in a bar during the war where she falls in love with an American soldier, a boy growing up as an orphan who is outcast due to having an American father and Vietnamese mother and a veteran returning to the country decades after fighting there. While the subject matter is heavy and doesn’t shy away from the realities of trauma and the different ways this is experienced and lived out, the book remains highly readable and engaging.

Without giving away spoilers I loved how the author led the reader to believe they had worked out the conclusion only to weave the strands together to reveal something different. While trauma is without a doubt the main theme (the author has an academic background in this subject connected to the Vietnam War so does this extremely sensitivity and authentically)there are many sub- themes going on too. I don’t think you can end this book without thinking about morality, the importance of family and the messy realities of truth. While lies may be told or facts left out to try not to cause someone harm, in the long term this can have more far reaching painful consequences. What this book also did really well was to combine languages together, bringing another dimension again to the story.

This is a book that will stay with me and continue to make me think in the days to come.

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A beautifully written and powerfully evocative novel. Dust Child is another fantastic novel from Nguyen Pham Que Mai, told from the voice of multiple characters it gives insight into the opposing perspectives of the Vietnam war. It took a while to settle into the jumping from different decades, past to present, but once in the flow of the book it makes complete sense and it helps to bring the story together. The converging characters are all interconnected, and this is what makes it so powerful, you want each of them to have their peace and find forgiveness in whatever form they need it. A thoroughly enjoyable tale and I can’t wait for more books to come.

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing quite like historical fiction for bringing the past vividly to life and showing events from a fresh perspective. And that’s exactly what Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has done in Dust Child, creating a trilogy of interwoven stories about the tragic legacy of American GIs in Vietnam.

Told in dual timelines, the narrative opens in 1969 with teenage sisters Trang and Quŷnh, who make the difficult decision to move from the countryside to Sài Gòn, where they plan to work as bar hostesses so that they can send money home to their struggling parents.

Fast forward to 2016, and Viêt Nam Veteran Dan has returned to Sài Gòn with his wife Linda to try and lay to rest the ghosts of a war that continues to haunt him. What Linda doesn’t know is that Dan is also searching for the woman and child he left behind all those years ago. He desperately needs to make his peace.

Linking these two strands is the story of Amerasian Phong, the ‘dust child’ of a Black American GI and a Vietnamese woman. Abandoned as a baby, Phong has spent much of his life destitute, trying to trace his parents with the hope of starting a new life in the USA.

This was such an immersive, eye-opening read, beautifully told in lyrical prose that is not only searingly evocative of time and place but also digs deeply into the hearts and souls of the characters so that you cannot help but identify with their struggles, sacrifices and disappointments.

Much of the historical detail was new to me. And much of it I found profoundly shocking, especially the treatment of the thousands of mixed-race ‘dust’ children forced to carry the shame of their parentage. But it was also interesting to learn of the many programs set up long after the war ended — perhaps as a kind of restitution — to reunite Veterans with their Vietnamese offspring and to give Amerasian children the right to settle in America.

Immaculately researched and exquisitely delivered, a story that deserves to be told.

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