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From the internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing, a suspenseful and moving novel that tells the intertwined stories of an American GI, two Vietnamese bargirls, and an Amerasian man—all of whom are forced to grapple with secrets they kept during and after the Việt Nam War.

In 1969, Trang and Quỳnh, young Vietnamese sisters, are desperate to find a way to help their parents pay off medical bills and debts. They leave their rural village and become “bar girls” in Sài Gòn, drinking, flirting (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a young American helicopter pilot. Decades later, Sài Gòn is a changed city, bustling, open to tourists, but also still full of bụi đời, the “dust of life,” Amerasians born to U.S. GIs and Vietnamese women, scorned and abandoned as children of the enemy. In 2016, one such man, Phong, the son of a Black American soldier and an unknown Vietnamese mother, embarks on a search to find both his parents and a way out of Vietnam. At the same time, Dan, an American Vietnam vet, lands in Sài Gòn with his wife, Linda, hoping to find a way to heal from his PTSD—but he has been harboring a secret for decades: when his tour ended he had abandoned his Vietnamese girlfriend, Kim, who was pregnant with his child. Once he returns to Viet Nam, he can no longer avoid his memories and questions. Had Kim and their child survived the war? Could they still be somewhere in the city after all these years?

Past and present converge as all these characters confront decisions made during a time of war—decisions that force them to look deep within themselves and others, across race, generation, culture, and language. Suspenseful, satisfying, and poetic, Dust Child tells an important and immersive story of war, love, and healing.


Born and raised in Việt Nam, Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (pronounced ŋwiən fα:n kwe mai) is the author of the international bestseller The Mountains Sing, runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, the 2021 International Book Awards, the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for Fiction. She has published twelve books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction in Vietnamese and English and has received some of the top literary prizes in Việt Nam including the Poetry of the Year 2010 from the Hà Nội Writers Association. Her writing has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in major publications including the New York Times. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She was named by Forbes Vietnam as one of 20 inspiring women of 2021. Her second novel in English, Dust Child, is forthcoming in March 2023.

Quế Mai is passionate about empowering others. In her voluntary roles, she is a Peace Advocate for PeaceTree Việt Nam, an editor of DVAN's publishing series, an Author Advocate for Room to Read, Advisor for Stories of Vietnam, and Founder and Head of Advisory Committee of Chắp Cánh Ước Mơ Volunteer Group.

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