'The Gangster We Are All Looking For,'
the Story of a Vietnamese Girl's Immigration to America,
is Summer Reading for New Students Coming to Smith this Fall
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Local
author lê thi diem thúy drew deeply from her
personal experience in writing her first novel, "The
Gangster We Are All Looking For," about a young girl
who leaves Vietnam with some of her family and eventually
settles in southern California.
Told from the perspective of
a 6-year-old girl, the novel illustrates in vividly poignant
detail the monumental adjustments, losses of innocence
and eventual triumphs of adaptation that accompany the transition
between lives of radical contrast.
Over the summer, more than
650 incoming Smith College students, the class of 2008, will
delve into "The Gangster We
Are All Looking For" as part of their pre-college preparation.
At their orientation program in late August, the students
will meet in small groups in residence living rooms and collectively
discuss their reflections on the book with staff and faculty
members, including President Carol T. Christ. The group discussions
will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 3.
At 7:30 p.m.
that evening, lê will present a reading
from the book in John M. Greene Hall, followed by a book
signing and reception.
Lê's reading is free,
open to the public and wheelchair accessible.
The summer reading
program is intended to immediately engage new Smith students
in meaningful discussion and reflection of a work that
thoughtfully addresses a number of issues pertinent to modern
Lê, who graduated from Hampshire College in 1994,
was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and last year
completed a one-year Radcliffe Fellowship to study fiction
writing at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Also a performance artist, lê's one-woman piece, "Red
Fiery Summer," was the forerunner to her first novel.
"The Gangster We Are All Looking For" was chosen
as this year's first-year required reading because "it's
readable and challenging at the same time," says Tom
Riddell, associate dean of the college and dean of the first-year
class, who chairs the committee that chooses the book for
summer reading. "Its style is intriguing, and we think
it will provoke engaging discussions both about the writing
and the subject -- the experience of people uprooted from
one culture and transplanted to another."
Lê's novel joins past summer reading selections such
as Anne Fadiman's "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall
Down," Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye," Ruth
Ozeki's "My Year of Meats," Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel
and Dimed," and last year's selection, Ian McEwan's "Atonement."
College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every
state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate
women's college in the country.
Office of College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174