The New York Times

America, Say My Name

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

I TRIED TROY. I STUCK WITH VIET.

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

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