Quiet As They Come: Stories

Angie Chau, Ig (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-935439-18-9

“Serenely stirring stories from Vietnamese-American Chau track the breaking asunder of an extended Vietnamese boat family newly arrived in California in the 1970s. Fleeing the Vietcong and relocated to San Francisco, the family of aunts, uncles, and cousins has assumed catchy Western names like Sophia (Loren) and Marcel (Marcello Mastroianni), harboring many secrets in their bewildering new life in America. In ‘Hunger,’ the troupe of cousins gather their pennies and heads for the pool on July 4, braving verbal abuse from a hostile white neighbor while sharing a single slice of pizza. In ‘The Pussycats’ a young mother, Kim, whose soldier husband, Duc, is imprisoned in Saigon, mistakenly takes her daughter to a porn flick with the title of a children's movie, setting in motion sexual desire for a married friend in her ESL class. Duc shows up after 10 years, in ‘Taps,’ as a hollowed-out victim of torture and trauma, now grievously unrecognizable. Well intentioned but misunderstood (‘as quiet as they come’), Chau's characters, in portraits that radiate dignity and depth, seek freedom but find crushing loneliness.”
- Publisher's Weekly Starred Review, September 2010
“Heartbreaking tales of ordinary people lost between the extraordinary circumstances of history. Bitter and beautiful all at once.”
- Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“This deeply moving collection of stories hums and glows with the interconnected lives of an extended immigrant family from Vietnam. Chau navigates her characters’ lives—their tragedy and humor, longings and furies, vast losses and secret beauties—with grace, skill, and ferocious compassion. Quiet As They Come announces the arrival of an astonishing literary talent with a great deal to say about the intricacies of family life, coming of age, emigration, and—above all—the treasures buried in the human heart.”
- Carolina De Robertis, author of The Invisible Mountain
Quiet As They Come is a beautifully rendered, intimate, and dramatic story of family and country. Each character is drawn with such honesty and generosity, such insight and imagination. Angie Chau has impressed and enthralled me and I was very sorry to come to the last page. Buy this book!”
- Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“What a rich and charming collection of stories this is. It offers an insider’s view of the immigrant experience: a world divided one culture from another, past from present, parent from child.”
- Lynn Freed, author of The Curse of the Appropriate Man
“We call it naturalization, but these bright, authentic, well-made stories both personalize and illuminate just how unnatural the first twenty years in America felt for thousands of Vietnamese families who fled to San Francisco to escape the Vietnam War. Angie Chau writes with humor, intensity and forgiveness about lives full of danger, insult, momentary reprieve, unending tenacity and undying hope.”
- Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness
“In stories that manage to be both playful and poignant, Angie Chau displays her exceptional gift for capturing the intricate interactions between parents and children, men and women, and Vietnamese and American cultures. There’s grit beneath the sparkle of her language. Chau’s intimate portrayal of characters who must navigate the uncertain terrain between what’s left behind and what lies ahead is revelatory.”
- Leslie Larson, author of Breaking Out of Bedlam
“Chau's characters bristle with life. They're full of beauty and grit, love and cowardice, bravery and spite. Many of them are new to this country, and Chau's gift for detailed observation made me see San Francisco again as though it were new to me. Gosh, this book practically has a heartbeat. A rare gift, indeed.”
- Robin Romm, author of The Mercy Papers
“The linked stories in Angie Chau’s darkly sparkling debut, Quiet As They Come (Ig Publishing), focus on Vietnamese families who fled the war and settled in San Francisco. In ‘The Pussycats,’ a schoolgirl must bring something special from home to her class. Her mother’s response captures the perennial push-pull of immigrant life: ‘In Vietnam, this was called bragging. In America, it was called Show and Tell.’”
- Editors September Pick—Elle Magazine, September 2010