The New York Times

America, Say My Name

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


LOS ANGELES — What’s your name? Mine is Viet Thanh Nguyen, although I was born, in Vietnam, as Nguyen Thanh Viet. Whichever way you arrange my name, it is not a typical American name. Growing up in the United States, I was encouraged by generations of American tradition to believe that it was normal, desirable and practical to adopt an American first name, and even to change one’s surname to an American one.

Of course, that raises the question — what exactly is an American name?

When my Vietnamese parents became American citizens, they took the pragmatic route and changed their names to Joseph and Linda. My adolescent self was shocked. Were these the same

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The New York Times

The New York Times5 min read
Cat Marnell Is Back From the Brink
In her new audiobook “Self-Tanner for the Soul,” the quasi-reformed party girl tells listeners that you can, in fact, run away from your problems.
The New York Times5 min read
Reading This While Walking? Here's How to Break That Awful Habit
YOU KNOW YOU DO IT: TEXTING AND WALKING AT THE SAME TIME. IT’S NOT SAFE, OBVIOUSLY. HERE’S HOW TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR TECH USE. You’re walking around and a thought occurs: “I should check my phone.” The phone comes out of your pocket. You type a mes
The New York Times3 min read
If I Touched the Moon, What Would It Feel Like?
(Science Times) ; (Good Question) Twelve people have walked on the moon since humans landed there 50 years ago, but no one has ever directly touched its surface. Those astronauts wore their spacesuits outside the lander. No one ever took off a glove