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News Release

June 11, 2004

'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 society.

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."

Smith 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 Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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