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Dust Child

'Dazzling. Sharply drawn and hauntingly beautiful.' Elif Shafak

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai


Named a Best Book of Spring 2023 by the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the Chicago Review of Books, Ms. MagazineBookPage and BookBub


A Most Anticipated Title according to Sydney Morning HeraldSalonNB Magazine and SheReads


Four lives, entwined forever by decisions made in a time of conflict. But what happens decades later when they unexpectedly converge once more? 


Trang and Quynh: sisters who leave their rural village for the bustling city of Saigon, desperate to find work to help their impoverished parentsWhen they take jobs as ‘ bar girls’, paid to flirt with American GIs, they must decide whether they are willing to turn their backs on the people they used to be.  


Phong: one of the thousands of mixed-race children abandoned by their American fathers and Vietnamese mothers. Phong grows up surrounded by rejection, insulted as a ‘Black American imperialist’, and a ‘child of the enemy’. But he never gives up hope of finding his parents and proving he is more than a ‘bui doi’: more than the ‘dust of life’. 


Dan: A former American helicopter pilot still plagued by regrets about his actions during the Việt Nam war. Now he has returned in the hope of confronting the demons that refuse to fall silent.  


Set between the Việt Nam war and the present day, Dust Child is a sweeping epic of family secrets and hidden heartache, from an internationally celebrated author.


‘Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is one of the most unique storytellers of our time.’ Natalie Jenner, internationally bestselling-author of The Jane Austen Society

  • Publication date: March 14, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861546121
  • RRP: £12.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: April 20, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861545407
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: March 14, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861545414
  • RRP: £6.99
  • Pages: 352


'Intricately weaved, the characters coax you into their world effortlessly. An important historical moment and Nguyen Phan Que Mai is a knowledgeable and sympathetic guide.'

Melody Razak, author of Moth

'Dazzling. Sharply drawn and hauntingly beautiful.'

Elif Shafak, Women's Prize-shortlisted author of The Island of Missing Trees

'Quế Mai is interested in the personal cost of conflict. She is a skilled storyteller, and her lyrical turn of phrase reflects her characters' backgrounds as well as their emotions… Quế Mai demonstrates a deep understanding of splintered lives. The compassionate treatment of her characters, insights into the period and eloquent prose are impressive.'


'Notable for its boundless compassion for all the characters, from young, brutalised US soldiers to the girls who pretend to love them and the dust children left behind.'

The Times

'A family epic to remember... Dust Child brings together an unforgettable cast of characters whose lives have forever been changed by past violence. Spanning decades and disparate lives, the book deftly explores the ways we both inherit trauma and redefine our own paths forward.'

Chicago Review of Books

'Once again, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has written a beautiful novel that shines a light on the history of Vietnam... Dust Child is simply stunning.'

Eric Nguyen, author of Things We Lost to the Water

'A heartbreaking, beautifully told, utterly unique story of love, loss, and longing that speaks to the very heart of the human experience.'

Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars

'Quế Mai shows us the capacity we hold to confront our pasts, for the purpose of life is not to remain intact, but to break open, to let loss be a guide, to face the echoes of longing. In Dust Child, rupture leads to emotional richness and pain creates the pathways worth walking. I truly cannot wait for the rest of the world to celebrate this book.'

Chanel Miller, New York Times bestselling author of Know My Name

'Well-researched, realistic, and compassionately written... This eye-opening and fascinating novel is a must-read!'

Le Ly Hayslip, bestselling author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

'Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is one of the most unique storytellers of our time... She creates plots which are Dickensian in their breadth and mastery, while bravely probing the complex emotional challenges of living in a modern world full of disruption and displacement.'

Natalie Jenner, internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society

'An evocative tale that sheds lights on a legacy of the Vietnam war that more should know about, Nguyễn’s love for her country and its citizens shines through the pages of Dust Child.'  

Jing-Jing Lee, author of How We Disappeared

'Scenes of past and present Việt Nam come alive in these pages... With her generous heart and unmatched ability to write across languages and cultures, Quế Mai is the perfect guide for the wounded who search for home and healing.'

Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Dr Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is an award-winning Vietnamese poet and novelist. She is the author of eleven books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her books in Vietnamese have received the 2010 Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize in the Poetry Competition celebrating 1,000 Years of Hanoi. Her debut novel and first book in English, The Mountains Sing, is an International Bestseller, runner-up in the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, Winner of the Blogger’s Book Prize 2021, Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards, Winner of the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for “a work of exceptional quality” and for “contribution to peace and reconciliation”. For more information, visit:

Author page

More books by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

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