November 29, 2021 8:15 AM EST

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; this highly anticipated sequel exceeds expectations. The story picks up in early 1980s Paris, where our unnamed French-Vietnamese double agent has arrived with his brother, both hoping to leave behind their traumatic experiences in re-education camps. What this means is assimilating to Parisian life, and opening up to a world run by their people’s colonizers. The narrator approaches these tensions with ambivalence and, at times, cynicism—he finds stimulating community among French intellectuals but he’s very aware of the racism they’re certain they lack—and eventually turns to drug dealing to make a living. The Committed is a thrilling and thought-provoking examination of contradicting identities and ethical ambiguity.

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