Angry Reader of the Week: Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen

"...It would be easier to list what doesn't make me angry."

Hello everybody! You know what time it is. It's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Beth Nguyen.

Who are you?

I am someone who sees the question "Who are you?" and immediately has the song "Whoooo are you? Who who, who who?" in her mind. I can't stand that song. I'm not sure I like any songs from The Who.

I am also someone who decided to start going by a different name, Beth, as a social experiment to see if it would change my interactions with people, those I already knew as well as strangers. Spoiler alert: it did. As Beth, I am less immediately "foreign" to new people I meet. As Beth, I am also someone who is apparently enacting betrayal by asking to be called a different name. Many people refuse to call me this name, even when asked, which is fascinating.

What are you?

This question takes me back to some of my earliest memories of elementary school. It never stopped, this question. Sometimes I gave the answer they wanted -- my family is Vietnamese -- and sometimes I didn't.

Right now I say: I am a person, a being, a mother, a writer -- not sure what order. I am filled with doubt and with certainty, at the same time.

Where are you?

In my house, in the East Bay, within the expanse known as the Bay Area, in northern California. It's morning now. Gray, 55 degrees, momentary sunlight. I've lived here for four and a half years. In my backyard there's a lemon tree and it bears fruit year-round and every time I look at it I am filled with delight.

Where are you from?

Where am I realllly from? Started in Saigon; family left the day before the fall of the city and the end of the war in Vietnam. I was a baby refugee in a family of refugees. Three camps later, we ended up in deeply conservative Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I grew up, and where most of my white friends regularly told me I would burn in hell if I didn't convert to Christianity. My family was, and stayed, Buddhist. I've spent most of my life in the Midwest, in college towns, in academic jobs. I never thought I'd live in California -- it just seemed too lovely-sounding for the likes of me -- so I'm often astonished that I ended up here.

What do you do?

I cook a lot, mainly for my children, and I think about all of their needs and hopes and future needs and hopes. I worry a lot, as in a tremendous amount, about the future of this country and this world. Besides that, my day job is working as a professor in an MFA program, which I also direct. I've taught at other workshops, too, such as VONA and Kundiman. I love doing this -- workshops, giving talks. My wish-I-could-do-more-of job is being a fiction and nonfiction writer. My first book was a memoir, Stealing Buddha's Dinner. My next two books were novels, Short Girls and Pioneer Girl. I'm working on a book of essays, Owner of a Lonely Heart, about music and refugee life and growing up in America (which presently seems stranger and worse than it was during the 80s of my childhood).

What are you all about?

The real answer is probably food. Food is my (love?) language.

What makes you angry?

So much that it would be easier to list what doesn't make me angry.

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