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An Interview with Angie Chau

Interviewed by Katerina Argyres

Angie Chau’s daring 2010 short story collection, Quiet As They Come, has been adopted for classroom curriculum at universities and high schools across the country–including at our own City College of San Francisco.

Finalist for both the Commonwealth Club Book of the Year and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year awards, Quiet As They Come explores the lives of Vietnamese immigrants as they struggle to adjust to life in San Francisco. Three families share a house brimming with secrets, dreams, and desires. Some thrive while others are destroyed by the false promise of the “American Dream”.

Chau, winner of the 2009 UC Davis Maurice Prize in Fiction, has been published in many distinguished literary magazines. Her work has earned her a Hedgebrook Residency, an Anderson Center Residency and a Macondo Foundation fellowship.

Chau was born in Vietnam and traveled throughout the world before settling in California. She earned a BA in Southeast Asian Culture and Political Economy from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in English with emphasis in Creative Writing from UC Davis.

How old were you when you left Vietnam? Where did your family move to?

I was three years old when we left and four by the time we arrived in San Francisco.

In many immigrant stories, most people are caught in between two cultures and trying to find harmony with both. What was your experience of leaving home and moving to another country? Or if you don’t remember, what was it like for your parents or the rest of your family?

Your question is beautifully put and it’s an eternal question. How does one find happiness, balance, harmony, and live life gracefully? I think it’s a question that every individual struggles with regardless of country or creed. Maybe this question comes to the forefront in immigrant stories because the differences in cultural norms and tastes can be so striking when a person is uprooted from one country and put into another. It sets up tensions that are accessible for good storytelling if done right. In practical terms though I whole heartedly confess to picking and choosing what I like best from each culture, whether Vietnamese or Western, and selectively integrating what I like.

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