le, thi diem thuy. The Gangster We Are All Looking For. New York. 2003. Knopf. 0375400184. 161 pages. hardcover. Jacket photograph courtesy of the author. Jacket design by Steven Amsterdam. 




A momentous literary debut: the life of a Vietnamese family in America luminously observed through the knowing eyes of a child. In 1978 six refugees a girl, her father, and four ‘uncles’ are pulled from the sea to begin a new life in San Diego. In the child’s imagination, the world of itchy dresses and run-down apartments is transmuted into an unearthly realm: she sees everything intensely, hears the distress calls of inanimate objects and waits for her mother to join her. But life loses none of its strangeness when the family is reunited. As the girl grows, her matter-of-fact innocence eddies increasingly around opaque and ghostly traumas: the cataclysm that engulfed her homeland, the memory of a brother who drowned and, most inescapable, her father’s hopeless rage for a father’s order. In THE GANGSTER WE ARE ALL LOOKING FOR, lê thi diem thuy has illuminated a world of great beauty and enormous sorrows. Here is an authentically original story of finding one’s place and voice in America.


le thi diem thuyle thi diem thuy was born in Phan Thiet, southern Vietnam. She and her father left Vietnam in 1978, by boat, eventually settling in Southern California. lê is currently a Radcliffe Fellow and resides in western Massachusetts.









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