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Dust Child

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

‘Dazzling. Sharply drawn and hauntingly beautiful.’ Elif Shafak, Women’s Prize-shortlisted author of The Island of Missing Trees

In 1969, two sisters from rural Việt Nam leave their parents’ home and travel to the bustling city of Sài Gòn. Soon their lives are swept up in the unstoppable flames of a war that is blazing through their country. They begin working as ‘bar girls’ in one of the drinking dens frequented by American GIs, forced to accept that survival now might mean compromising the values they once clung to. 

Decades later, two men wander through the streets and marketplaces of a very different Sài Gòn: modern, forward-looking, healing. But neither of these men can escape the shadow of decisions made by themselves and others during a time of war.

Through the interwoven stories of these four unforgettable characters, Dust Child exposes the devastating legacy of conflict, and asks what it takes to move forward. Heartfelt, suspenseful and poetic, this is Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai at her very best.

  • Publication date: March 14, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780861545414
  • RRP: £6.99
  • Pages:


'Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai will win many more readers with her powerful and deeply empathetic second novel. From the horrors of war and its enduring after life for men and women, lovers and children, soldiers and civilians, she weaves a heartbreaking tale of lost ideals, human devotion, and hard-won redemption. Dust Child establishes Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai as one of our finest observers of the devastating consequences of war, and proves, once more, her ability to captivate readers and lure them into Việt Nam’s rich and poignant history.' 

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Sympathizer

'Dazzling. Sharply drawn and hauntingly beautiful.'

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

'Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai will win many more readers with her powerful and deeply empathetic second novel... A heartbreaking tale of lost ideals, human devotion, and hard-won redemption.'

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Sympathizer

'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

'A powerful and moving story, brilliantly told.'

Robert Mason, New York Times bestselling author of Chickenhawk

'This novel stands out with its complexity and empathy toward Vietnamese and American peoples involved in the Việt Nam War... Once I started reading, I could not put the book down.'

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, author of This Is All I Choose to Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature

'Riveting... Nguyễn creates, in her luminous prose, a gripping and nuanced narrative of men and women caught in the web of war and its aftermath.'

Steven DeBonis, author of Children of the Enemy: Oral Histories of Vietnamese Amerasians and Their Mothers

'With great compassion, with a firm conviction in the redeeming power of love and forgiveness, and with the consummate skill of a great story-teller, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai weaves us into the lives, past and present, of those called "the dust of life"—the ostracized, mixed-race children of American soldiers; their mothers, compelled by war into prostitution, and their fathers, the G.I.'s who abandoned them and yet remained haunted by them.'

Wayne Karlin, author of Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam

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

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