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2005 Writers Forum
Nhien Nguyen

Nhien Nguyen was born in Vietnam and grew up in Portland, Oregon. She is currently editor-in-chief of the International Examiner, a news journal for the Northwest region’s Asian American communities. Prior to her editorship position, Nhien was a freelance writer for the Examiner and other publications such as A. Magazine and Colors Northwest. As former interim development director at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, Nhien has skills in fundraising and community development. Attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, she participated in the Asian American Renaissance programs, including mentoring high school students in creative writing. In 2003, she led high school students in Jack Straw Foundation’s Vietnamese writers program. Her short film "Hamburgers & Salsa" premiered at the Vietnamese International Film Festival, and she is now producing her first feature film. Nhien is currently a recipient of the City of Seattle CityArtists literary project award and received a 2002 Seattle Arts Commission Literary Award. She has also completed her first fiction novel based on her experiences as a Vietnamese American. Nhien Nguyen photo
photo credit:
dean wong
Listen to an excerpt of Nhien's reading (MP3)
Read and listen to excerpts from a discussion between Nhien Nguyen and 2005 curator John Mifsud.
Transitions (excerpt)

Paul scrunched his round face, making the bags under his eyes into moon crescents.

Tonight, the cringe was not from the meal of kung pao chicken, leftover from last night’s Chinese take-out, but from the sound of Mary’s fork scraping her teeth.

"Could you not do that?" Paul said, cupping his hands over his ears.

Mary apologized, though she was not truly sorry for the way she ate her food. Since age eight, she had learned from Morgan Fairchild tips on how to eat while at the same time keeping your lipstick intact. Roll spaghetti tightly on your fork, and pull the fork out of your mouth with your teeth, not your lips, was the example Morgan gave on the talk show, Mary couldn’t remember which. Eight years later, when she began wearing make-up, she realized that Morgan’s tricks worked.

Little did she know that such an unconscious habit would be the greatest pet peeve of her husband of two years. These days, however, Mary made the sound that grated Paul’s ears on purpose—even exaggerated it, for it was the only time during dinner that Paul said anything to her. She had resorted to hiding the chopsticks just so she could make the metal screech with the utensils.

In the past six months, Paul and Mary Tran spoke few words during the half hour that they were together at dinner. At other times at home in their loft, they managed to be in separate areas away from each other. A laptop made it possible for Paul to move his workstation wherever Mary was not.

Since there were no doors to divide the rooms, Mary could still see Paul hunched over his laptop, working on Quickbooks or reading books he downloaded off the internet. She became quite skilled at watching for the twitch of Paul’s spiky black hair just as he moved to glance over his shoulder. She quickly resumed what she was doing, and didn’t look his way again until she heard the clicking of the keyboard keys.

Mary took their plates, his with half-eaten bites of chicken and broccoli, hers wiped clean, to the kitchen sink. Before she began on the dishes, she tied her hair back, annoyed by the feeling of hair tickling her shoulders. Her regular haircut every six-weeks had been overdue for two weeks.

"Paul, can you bring the rest of the dishes to the kitchen?" Mary said.

Paul had parked himself in front of the television, within range of her voice, though the room was filled with white noise from the McDonald’s commercial.

Mary crept behind the couch and peered at the screen of his computer. Dark black pupils stared back at her. It was her mother-in-law’s eyes zoomed in. Mary could tell by the way Paul was transfixed on diffusing the bloodshot red in the whites of her eyes.

Paul’s mother, Rose, had died last year in a sudden heart attack. She was one week shy of her sixtieth birthday. The photo, as Paul returned it to its undistorted shape, was one of the last taken of Rose in the hospital.


The room was silent.

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