Dear Diaspora

Author Susan Nguyen

"Dear Diaspora" is an unapologetic reckoning with history, memory and grief. Parting the weeds on a small American town, this collection sheds light on the intersections of girlhood and diaspora. The poems introduce us to Suzi: ripping her leg hairs out with duct tape, praying for ecstasy during Sunday mass, dreaming up a language for buried familial trauma and discovering that such a language may not exist. Through a collage of lyric, documentary and epistolary poems, we follow Suzi as she untangles intergenerational grief and her father’s disappearance while climbing trees to stare at the color green and wishing that she wore Lucy Liu’s freckles.

Winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, "Dear Diaspora" scrutinizes our turning away from the trauma of our past and our complicity in its erasure. Suzi, caught between enjoying a run-down American adolescence and living with the inheritances of war, attempts to unravel her own inherited grief as she explores the multiplicities of identity and selfhood against the backdrop of the Vietnamese diaspora. In its deliberate interweaving of voices, "Dear Diaspora" explores Suzi’s journey while bringing to light other incarnations of the refugee experience.


Susan Nguyen is senior editor of the journal Hayden's Ferry Review, housed at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. She is also an ASU alum, having earned a Master of Fine Arts in 2018.

Praise for this book

Nguyen's poetry reveals a remarkable embrace of complexity while accounting for the difficulties of complicity, witness and forgiveness. The final poem opens, 'I am learning how to hold grief / in my mouth.' This powerful debut attests to that endeavor and the way in which such work is necessary, beautiful and full of complexity.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘Last night, I had the American dream,’ Nguyen writes, puncturing the dream bubble in which ‘America’ exists as the only and inevitable state of success and belonging. In this collection, diaspora, specifically Vietnamese diaspora, is verdant and lush — suffused with green light, mustard greens, grass and trees — blooming through the drought of American love for Nguyen’s speakers. The poems in 'Dear Diaspora' offer us a lexicon we’ve needed to imagine how we might arrive at and receive one another better in land and language, in memory and touch.

Natalie Diaz Author of "Postcolonial Love Poem"
Cover of Dear Diaspora by Susan Nguyen
Date published
University of Nebraska Press

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