27th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture

lecture poster

27th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture presents

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize Winner & Scholar ( )

Enduring Wars in Transpacific Memories


14 September 2017 | 1:00 pm

Knight Auditorium | Spurlock Museum

Free and Open to the Public


Co-sponsored by:

Center for Advanced Study | Center for Global Studies with the support of the US Department of Education | Mortenson Center for International Library Programs | Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory through the Nicholson Gift Fund | Diversity Committee of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library | School of Information Sciences

In consideration with:

United Nations “Together: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” Campaign | University YMCA Welcoming Week

Download Event Flyer to Share (PDF )

Related Info:
The MLIS students at St Catherine University created a LibGuide related to Viet’s work. This guide includes a variety of resources about the Vietnam War for both adults and youth.


9:00-10:30 AM
Graduate Seminar with the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory: Asian American Cultural Center Lounge1210 W. Nevada St., Urbana, IL . Contact Susan Koshy 
1:00-2:30 PM
Lecture and Q&A: Knight Auditorium at the Spurlock Museum – 600 S Gregory St, Urbana, IL 
2:30-3:30 PM
Viet Thanh Nguyen: Biography

Getting to Know Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen holds the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and is Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC). Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Other honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Literary Excellence from the American Library Association, a California Book Award, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Fiction from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. A finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the PEN Faulkner Award, and an LA Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category, The Sympathizer made it to over thirty best of the year lists, including those of the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Amazon.com, Public Books, Kirkus Reviews, The Guardian, Library Journal, Flavorwire, and BuzzFeed, among other venues. The foreign rights have been sold to twenty-three countries.

His current book is the short story collection The Refugees from Grove Press (2017). He is also the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the co-editor of Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (University of Hawaii Press, 2014). He also authored Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War from Harvard University Press (2016), a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction, and the winner of the John G. Cawelti Award for Best Textbook/Primer from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.

Professor Nguyen’s research interests include war and memory; race and ethnicity; multiculturalism and identity; transnationalism and diaspora; Asian American literature and culture; international and comparative approaches to the Vietnam War; the Vietnamese diaspora; and fiction writing. He has an ongoing interest in multimedia and pedagogy, ever since teaching several multimedia courses at USC and being involved with the Visible Knowledge Project of Georgetown University. At USC, Nguyen is a member of the steering committee for the Center for Transpacific Studies. His articles have appeared in numerous journals and books, including PMLA, American Literary History, Western American Literature, positions: east asia cultures critique, The New Centennial Review, Postmodern Culture, the Japanese Journal of American Studies, and Asian American Studies After Critical Mass. He has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (2011-2012), the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard (2008-2009) and the Fine Arts Work Center (2004-2005). He has also received residencies, fellowships, scholarships and grants from the Luce Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council, the James Irvine Foundation, the Huntington Library, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation.

His teaching and service awards include the Mellon Mentoring Award for Faculty Mentoring Graduate Students, the Albert S. Raubenheimer Distinguished Junior Faculty Award for outstanding research, teaching and service, the General Education Teaching Award, and the Resident Faculty of the Year Award. Multimedia has been a key part of his teaching. In a recent course on the American War in Viet Nam, he and his students created An Other War Memorial, which won a grant from the Fund for Innovative Undergraduate Teaching and the USC Provost’s Prize for Teaching with Technology.

In his spare time, Nguyen co-directs the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, edits diaCRITICS, a blog on Vietnamese and diasporic Vietnamese arts and culture, and writes for the New York Times, Time, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and the Los Angeles Times, where he is a critic at large. His academic and literary writing, and literary criticism with a focus on ethnic and transpacific studies speak to many audiences, whether faculty, students and community members, with interests in cultural studies, information representation, cultural heritage, Asian American and other ethnic studies, English and comparative literature, literary criticism, Global Studies, East Asian and Pacific Studies, among others.

(Biography adapted from faculty site)

Lecture: Abstract & Details

Enduring Wars in Transpacific Memories

27th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanth Nguyen’s voice (creative writing, scholarship and research interests) is unique in that he is both a scholar and a creative writer and his work transcends the traditional boundaries of ethnic studies and areas studies. His academic and creative work is broadly interdisciplinary and of interest to all audiences. His Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, new book of short stories The Refugees, other writings and scholarship capture the complexities of conflicts, power, and identity to give rise to a dialogue on what it means to be national, ethnic, multicultural, foreign, international, diaspora, transnational, etc.

Nguyen will explore the conflicts and trauma brought about by war, forced migration, and subsequent resettlement and integration of refugees in a new homeland, and the memories that ensue. The 27th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture honors of the Mortensons who endowed the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, which aims to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians worldwide for the promotion of international education, understanding, and peace. The lecture will engage issues within the library and information field, related to war, memory, ontology and cultural identify Viet Nguyen’s reference to Americans calling it the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese referring to the same war as the American War are issues of representation, categorization and ontology that are of interest to the library and information field and with which we continue to grapple. For example, is Nguyen’s work Asian American, American, Vietnamese, diasporic, etc.?

Additionally, the Center is working on “Project Welcome: Libraries and Community Anchors Planning for Resettlement and Integration of Refugees and Asylum Seekers,” (visit the Project Welcome website). His current book is the short story collection The Refugees from Grove Press (2017) provides an opportunity to explore the lived experience of refugees that provide a scope of the information needs of refugees that need to be considered in developing library and information services. Moreover, the current sociopolitical climate has created an environment of fear of the Other, and especially the “refugee” other, conflict in local communities, and the rolling back of race relations. The opportunity to consider the authentic lives of refugees, opens up a conversation on stereotypes, forced migration and other related topics, through engaging the voice of the Other. This opportunity for a complex and meaningful dialogue will enhance the climate of understanding and inclusion on campus.

In short, Nguyen’s academic and literary writing, and literary criticism with a focus on ethnic and transpacific studies speak to many audiences, whether faculty, students and the public at large, with interests in cultural studies, information representation, cultural heritage, Asian American and other ethnic studies, English and comparative literature, literary criticism, Global Studies, East Asian and Pacific Studies, among others. Through the Vietnamese American journey of war and memory, Nguyen’s work is the medium to understanding forced migration, transpacific studies, identity and representation.


This event is free and open to the public. If you plan to join the lecture and book signing, please complete the Lecture RSVP Form (RSVPs now closed). RSVPs are not required, however, we ask you to RSVP for planning purposes.


Livestreaming will be made available, 14 September, at Live at Illinois. If you plan to view the live stream, we ask for your RSVP through the Livestream RSVP Form (RSVPs now closed).

Getting There

The Lecture and Book Signing will take place at the Spurlock Museum, located at 600 S Gregory St. in Urbana, IL .

Parking and driving directions  may be found on Spurlock’s website. Should you have any questions, please contact the Mortenson Center  for further details.


All public areas in Spurlock are accessible to visitors in wheelchairs or strollers, though seating is limited in the Knight Auditorium. Assisted listening devices are available in the Knight Auditorium.

If you need accessible seating or an assisted listening device , please contact the Mortenson Center .

Parking spaces for visitors with handicapped parking permits are available in the small lot next to the Museum building. The University also maintains an ADA floor plans of the building.

Book Signing & Sales

Following the Lecture, Viet Nguyen will be available for a book signing at the Spurlock Museum from 2:30-3:30 pm.

The Illini Union Book Store will have three titles available for purchase, including The Sympathizer, The Refugees, and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Books may be purchased by credit card, cash, or check.


Mortenson Center:

Website: www.library.illinois.edu/mortenson
Email: mortenson@illinois.edu
Phone: +1 217.333.3085